Today I was informed that the CDC released preliminary vital statistics for 2006 which includes state-by-state cesarean birth information. Here in Montana the 2006 cesarean rate was 28%, earning us a rank of number 37 (of 51). The national cesarean rate was 31.1%, an all-time high. Although Montana was 3 percentage points below the national average, the rate still exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations by 13-18%! The WHO determined that when cesarean rates exceed 10-15%, the risks of the surgery outweigh the benefits. It is my understanding from a recent discussion with a hospital administrator that Community Hospital’s (Missoula) cesarean rate exceeded 30% in 2006. Missoula’s cesarean rate is headed in the wrong direction.
As a woman with one cesarean scar, these statistics are frightening. Is cesarean birth becoming “normal” birth? If one out of three babies is born through major abdominal surgery, then yes, I’d say the norm is swinging that direction. You need to know that the percentage of birth by cesarean has risen 50% in the past decade. This is straight from the horse’s mouth! You also need to know that Montana’s VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) rate in 2005 was only 1%.
For the second year in a row, ICAN has compiled a list of research from the past year that shows cesarean surgery should be used more judiciously and that VBACs should be routine/normal. Currently, more than 300 hospitals across the U.S. ban women from having a VBAC, essentially coercing them into unnecessary surgery and feeding the growing rate of cesarean. Very few Montana women have access to vaginal births after cesarean sections. Only a handful of hospitals across the state allow VBACs – one of those hospitals is Community Hospital in Missoula
In August, the Centers for Disease Control released a report showing that, for the first time in decades, the number of women dying in childbirth has increased. Experts note that the increase may be due to better reporting of deaths but that it coincides with dramatically increased use of cesarean. The latest national data on infant mortality rates in the United States also show an increase in 2005 and no improvement since 2000. “At a time when maternal and infant mortality rates are decreasing throughout the industrialized world, the United States is in the unique position of having both a rapidly increasing cesarean rate and no improvement in these basic measures of maternal and infant health.” says Eugene Declercq, Ph.D., Professor of Maternal and Child Health at Boston University School of Public Health.
Another report released in October by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the U.N. Children’s Fund, the U.N. Population Division and The World Bank, and published in the Lancet shows that the U.S. has a higher maternal death rate than 40 other countries. “Women in the U.S. think they’re getting top notch care, but our death rate for mothers shows otherwise,” says ICAN’s President, Pamela Udy. The U.S.’s maternal death rate tied with that of Belarus, and narrowly beat out Bosnia and Herzogovena.
Research from 2007 also shows that VBAC continues to be a reasonably safe birthing choice for mothers. “The research continues to reinforce that cesareans should only be used when there is a true threat to the mother or baby,” said Udy. “Casual use of surgery on otherwise healthy women and babies can mean short-term and long-term problems.” For women who encounter VBAC bans, ICAN has developed a guide to help them understand their rights as patients. The resource discusses the principles of informed consent and the right of every patient to refuse an unwanted medical procedure. Click here for a pdf copy of this important resource.
Women who are seeking information about how to avoid a cesarean, have a VBAC, or are recovering from a cesarean can visit www.ican-online.org for more information, to find a local chapter, and to receive support.
About Cesareans: ICAN recognizes that when a cesarean is medically necessary, it can be a lifesaving technique for both mother and baby, and worth the risks involved. Potential risks to babies include: low birth weight, prematurity, respiratory problems, and lacerations. Potential risks to women include: hemorrhage, infection, hysterectomy, surgical mistakes, re-hospitalization, dangerous placental abnormalities in future pregnancies, unexplained stillbirth in future pregnancies and increased percentage of maternal death. http://www.ican-online.org/resources/white_papers/index.html Mission statement: ICAN is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery and promoting vaginal birth after cesarean. There are 94 ICAN Chapters across North America, which hold educational and support meetings for people interested in cesarean prevention and recovery.