Years ago, my mother-in-law told me that her four children were delivered by c-section. I remembered her saying, “It was the 50s and 60s. You entered the hospital with a belly, they put you to sleep, and when you woke up, you had a baby in your arms!“
Compared to my grandmother, who gave birth to her seven children naturally, having a c-section was never an option. The lack of medical services in rural Colombia back in the day mandated women to endure labor and God’s will.
Nonetheless, more than half a century later, Latin America has changed drastically, becoming the region in the entire world with the highest rate of c-section, according to the latest data published by the medical journal, The Lancet last week.
The journal joined the effort of the World Health Organization, which also published a new guide called “WHO recommendations: non-clinical interventions to reduce unnecessary cesareans sections.” on October 11th.
Keeping in mind that WHO recommends a c-section rate per country no higher than 10%. the recent data is causing alarm. During the past fifteen years, the rate has doubled and reached 21% worldwide.
In the United States the rate is 32%, and in Latin America–especially Brazil and the Dominican Republic–the percentage is at a whopping 60%. My home country, Colombia, is not far behind. From 1998 to 2013 the c-sections rate increased from 24.85% to 45.51%.
In my view, this surgical intervention in Latin America is no longer exclusive for high-risk pregnancies or complicated labor scenarios, but rather a technique to speed up hospital beds turnover. I am going to share my experience and a friend’s to give you an idea of what I am talking about.
When I had my son, seven years ago in Florida, my labor lasted 27 hours. I almost thought I was giving birth to an elephant! I arrived at the Baptist South hospital on Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. and was discharged at noon the following Saturday. The total stay was 80 hours.
Two weeks prior, my friend in Colombia arrived at the hospital on a Tuesday at 10 a.m. and following a very short labor, without any complications, they cut her open in the afternoon. At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, she was home with her new baby girl.
The human body is a magnificent machine, and labor is as old as life itself. The delivery process, that starts naturally, triggers a series of chemical and physiological reactions in the mother’s body which are vital to the newborn, such as the microbiome transfer–the blueprint for immune system development–and breastfeeding.
Of course, not all labors and deliveries are perfect, and that is what c-sections are for: to save the lives of mothers and babies in danger. However, as The Lancet studies and the WHO guide highlights, if labor is interrupted to satisfy bureaucracy, doctors’ compensation, to avoid litigation, or the mom’s fear to the vaginal delivery, human nature is altered.
But things are changing. The “organic” trend advocates have elective c-sections in their scope. They are convincing thousands of women each day to have their babies naturally and even without any drugs–my hat’s off to them!
In Spanish, giving birth is translated as “giving light”. So, when a new mother doesn’t get all the information from her medical practitioner about the risks of an elective c-section, might as well be giving birth in the dark.
Thank you for reading and sharing.