NPR: Causes of the World’s Cesarean Epidemic

Cesarean rates are rising around the world but there are also countries where more surgical births are critically needed. This miraculous surgery has saved many lives but the current epidemic is increasing dangers for mothers and their babies.

On NPR’s Science Friday, a female obstetrician (OB) from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center courageously lays the ultimate responsibility for the U.S. epidemic in the lap of obstetricians. OBs are doctors who specialize in complicated births but they attend the majority of our nation’s low-risk births also. She discusses some of the factors that influence doctors to recommend “birth by scalpel” and states families most often will agree.

Yes, hospitals are making more money on cesareans because of the longer stays but most doctors do not collect more for an abdominal birth. So, what is motivating many physicians?  One factor NPR did not address is the fact that cesareans can make it less “labor-intensive” for the care provider. The doctor is then free to go back to the office, see more patients, do another billable surgery/procedure, or simply get some sleep.

A Yale Midwifery professor points out that there are lower rates of surgical births in states with more midwife-attended births and the states with the highest cesarean rates have the lowest percentage of midwife-attended births. England has better statistics than the U.S. and all women have Nurse-Midwives for their care, most women give birth in hospitals and obstetricians are only involved if needed. Another OB, also female, called in and highlighted that the nation needs to make home birth safer by making home birth services an integrated part of our healthcare system.

Vanita’s Note: Midwifery care is commonly found in other countries with better statistics than the U.S.

Listen to the full 26-minute interview:

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