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Women Who Experience Birth Violence Overwhelmingly Request C-Sections

November 11, 2010

In light of recent commentary coming about about the debate regarding birth violence and birth rape, I thought that this study regarding women choosing a C-section as a means to control their births a very telling commentary on women’s lack of trust in the medical profession in protecting their rights to birth.  Midwifery today recently published an article on a woman’s traumatizing birth story and the correlation with C-sections, and I wonder if the C-section rate is not simply a marker of increased liability, but a marker of women’s lack of trust in the medical profession in the birthing process.  After all, what does it say about physicians when women overwhelmingly trust them to cut out their babies than to assist the women in delivering vaginally?  Is the rising C-section rate really a reflection on larger society’s lack of trust in a physician’s capabilities to safely and gently help a woman birth her child?

Midwifery Today rightly points out that there are many avenues for causing a traumatic birth experience, and this directly coincides with request for voluntary C-sections:

There are many different aspects of a birth—use of forceps, unrelieved pain, c-section, or a perceived loss of control during the birth for example—that may cause a mother to classify her birth as “traumatic.” Research has shown that once a woman has undergone a traumatic birth, she is more likely to request a cesarean for the birth of her next baby.(1) In one Hong Kong study, 24% of women chose elective cesarean after their first birth and a quarter of these women reported “intense fear of vaginal birth” as their reason for electing to have a cesarean.

What if this culture of liability that has thus far been blamed on the women and families who may pursue legal action really is a result of physicians’ actions in doggedly performing C-sections to the point that no one trusts them to help with vaginal deliveries anymore?

If women, and society as a whole, insurance companies, lawyers, legislators, etc. really trusted physicians to assist women in vaginal births, then we wouldn’t have the societal buy-in of the C-section as the norm (paid for by insurance companies, advocated by “liability laws,” etc. ) or even the “safer” option in terms of liability.  What have doctors done or not done so that the entire society buys into the concept that doctors are better suited to “safely” delivering a baby only by cutting it out of a woman?

Rising C-section rates and elective C-sections may have less to do with liability than lack of trust, and really, when it comes down to it, lack of expert performance in helping women deliver vaginally.  Hey, Doctors, perhaps you could work on that, and maybe while you’re at it, investigate the birth rape discussion.  It’s no surprise to me that women who have suffered a birth rape or traumatizing birth would choose a scenario in which the interventions will be spelled out and agreed-upon beforehand rather than letting a physician “choose” how a woman would birth vaginally.  By choosing a C-section, many women feel that they will finally have a voice in how their baby is born, but what a sad commentary on doctors’ performance in helping women birth with dignity and empowerment.

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