Brazilian women stand up against C-section culture

Some may claim a desire for control as the reason for the first-world increase in caesarean section births over the past several decades. The procedure can be planned around doctor and family schedules, and oftentimes takes the unknown variables--when, where, severity of pain--out of the birth equation, supposedly quelling the fears of the expecting. But after years of being bombarded with the idea that C-sections are easier, more desirable, and simply the right thing to do, women in Brazil--a country with one of the highest Caesarean rates in the world--are stepping up to reclaim the right to take control out of doctors' hands and give it back to biology.


Brazil's Caesarean rate currently sits at more than 50 percent of all births, a statistic that increases to more than 80 percent for women who have private health insurance. Doctors in both public and private sectors get paid more for the significantly shorter surgical births, moms are ensured that their regular doctors will deliver their babies and are promised a more comfortable and predictable experience. But a medical regulating agency in Rio de Janeiro may have taken it too far when it banned doctors from performing home births and doulas from taking part in hospital births.

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Brazil's women are becoming savvier about the risks of C-sections, in part due to a campaign launched by the country's federal government in support of natural births. And it's my hunch that over the past decade or so, increased access to unbiased data via the internet, has helped clue moms and future moms in to the fact that in most of the world, surgical births are not the norm.

In response to the medical agency's bans Brazilian women organized marches in more than a dozen cities, in which protesters voiced their right to choose. The ban was subsequently overturned, but the fight is still alive and well both in Brazil and internationally. In fact, the U.S. C-section rate rose nearly 12 percent between 1996 and 2009, and has only recently begun to level, although it still hovers at nearly 33 percent, prompting more women to seek the care of midwives and doulas.

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At almost 40 percent, the Caesarean rate in my home state of New Jersey even higher. And after watching friend after friend go through inductions that lead to C-sections, I did what I could to make sure I had a better chance at having a normal vaginal delivery … I researched, and whether by coincidence or not, I remain scar free. My advice: Take a clue from the Brazilians and be your own advocate. Know your rights, know your options, don't be bullied, so that you can take control of your care and that of your baby.

Did you deliver normally of by C-section? Do you think doctors should do more to encourage natural births?  

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Topics: childbirth  labor  pregnancy statistics  pregnant