Thursday, February 19, 2009

Time article on VBAC and Forced Repeat Cesareans

I am excited to announce that Time magazine just released an article about VBAC and forced repeat cesareans, called The Trouble With Repeat Cesareans. It will hit newsstands tomorrow morning. I was privileged to play a (very small) part in helping the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) phone hospitals all across the US to determine whether or not VBACs were allowed in their facilities.

With a few exceptions, ICAN has contacted every American hospital that has a maternity ward. As you'll see in the article, 28% of U.S. hospitals have an outright ban on VBACs, and another 21% have a "de facto" ban: while VBACs are technically allowed at the hospital, no doctor will attend them. To find out the VBAC policies in your local hospitals, visit ICAN's VBAC policy database (it might not be up and running until tomorrow).

I feel that access to VBAC is one of the most pressing maternity care issues in this country, along with the disturbingly high cesarean rate (31.1% as of 2006). Please advertise this article widely, making sure to link to the original article on Time's website. The more traffic it gets, the longer it will remain online.

From the article:

For many pregnant women in America, it is easier today to walk into a hospital and request major abdominal surgery than it is to give birth as nature intended. Jessica Barton knows this all too well. At 33, the curriculum developer in Santa Barbara, Calif., is expecting her second child in June. But since her first child ended up being delivered by cesarean section, she can't find an obstetrician in her county who will let her even try to push this go-round. And she could locate only one doctor in nearby Ventura County who allows the option of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). But what if he's not on call the day she goes into labor? That's why, in order to give birth the old-fashioned way, Barton is planning to go to UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. "One of my biggest worries is the 100-mile drive to the hospital," she says. "It can take from 2 to 3 1/2 hours. I know it will be uncomfortable, and I worry about waiting too long and giving birth in the car."

Much ado has been made recently of women who choose to have cesareans, but little attention has been paid to the vast number of moms who are forced to have them. More than 9 out of 10 births following a C-section are now surgical deliveries, proving that "once a cesarean, always a cesarean"--an axiom thought to be outmoded in the 1990s--is alive and kicking. Indeed, the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), a grass-roots group, recently called 2,850 hospitals that have labor and delivery wards and found that 28% of them don't allow VBACs, up from 10% in its previous survey, in 2004. ICAN's latest findings note that another 21% of hospitals have what it calls "de facto bans," i.e., the hospitals have no official policies against VBAC, but no obstetricians will perform them.
Read the rest of the article here.


  1. Fantastic! I will be sure to add it to my blog and give it a shout out... thanks for the info!

  2. I think that I might engage in some extreme dorkery and write a thank you e-mail to Time Magazine. I would love to see more coverage.

  3. Also note the sidebar with "10 Most Common Hospital Mishaps" featured as a related article. I'd say they could add "Failure to Staff Adequate Anesthesiologists in L&D" and "Coercing Women Into Unwanted Planned Surgery" as a strong #11 and #12.

  4. I am expecting our 6th child, my 4th vbac in August. It took some doing to find anyone who would even discuss vbacs with me in Oklahoma. THere is only one hospital that permits them in the whole state! Luckily, my midwife delivers there. Thank goodness for the midwives who seem to be the only ones with any sense about this.

    BTW, I contacted the National Organization for Women (NOW) about this at both the local and national levels and begged for help in spotlighting this. They were polite in listening until I said baby #6 and then got exasperated with me and said the only women's medical issue of interest to them is abortion right now, but they'll keep this on file for later. a mom of a big family, I've lost the right to make medical decisions for my own body, and apparently stopped being a woman. How interesting.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I'm Canadian and just had my VBAC last month. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have any hospitals supporting VBACs. I will be linking to the article on my facebook profile!

  6. I particularly liked this line from the end of the article:

    "For one thing, patients and doctors need to be as aware of the risks of multiple cesareans as they are of those of VBACs."

  7. Thanks for the link to the VBAC database. That is an incredible resource.

  8. Oh, and the Mom, I am sorry about your experience with NOW. Many pro choice feminists, including me, think all reproductive rights issues are important.

  9. Thankyou Rixa!
    another maternal feminist whose primary section affected her future in myriad ways...


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