Posted at 1:00 PM Mar 17, 2010
By Andrea Grimes
Last week, Amnesty International released a report on the atrocious maternity death rate here in the United States, which we mentioned here on HD. According to the report, inaccessible and overpriced medical care are responsible, as well as the over-use (over-prescription?) of cesarean section births. And, indeed, the same week the Amnesty International report came out, the National Institutes of Health held a "census development" conference on the use of C-sections--determining eventually that doctors are too quick to rule out vaginal labor. Vaginas: 1, medicalization of birth: 0, at least in this round.
The deal is this: once women have had a C-section and are pregnant a second time, they are far more likely to be ushered into another C-section, rather than given a chance to deliver vaginally, ostensibly for health reasons. But, it turns out, VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) carries risks comparable to various fetal tests routinely given to most pregnant women. As in, it's actually not particularly risky.
Per the Our Bodies Ourselves blog:
One important topic included perceptions of the risk of trial of labor; a speaker who reviewed factors associated with uterine rupture and other adverse outcomes stated that "there is a major misperception that trial of labor is extremely risky," calling the risks to women comparable to other common medical procedures. Amy Romano provides additional commentary on uterine rupture risk at Science & Sensibility, noting that "we heard a rather consistent message that uterine rupture itself is not the issue."And then there's the issue of whether or not women have the actual right to refuse a C-section birth.
Day three generated perhaps the most heated discussion, in which a panelist stated that it is not a settled matter that women have a right to refuse a cesarean, reminding us of the need to continue to advocate for choices and rights for childbearing women. The relevant audience question comes up at 1:47:20 and comes from Shannon Mitchell of BirthAction. She raises the concern that there is nothing in the draft document that says that women have the right of refusal of a cesarean, an issue of concern given reports of court-ordered cesareans.Court-ordered ceseareans!? Christ, what is this, an episode of Grey's Special Victims Hospital? Check out The Unnecesarean for horrifying sentences like "a woman being operated on against her will."
Remind me again why anything about pregnancy seems awesome? Lordamercy.