April is Cesarean Awareness month, and I think there’s a lot of confusion about what that means. The Georgia Birth Network and ICAN of Atlanta put together a rally this weekend outside Piedmont Hospital. We received a lot of encouraging honks and waves and thumbs-up, but also a few negative comments and angry reactions. Whenever the subject of birth comes up, it seems to bring about strong, even defensive reactions. I think it would help for more women to understand why those of us who are passionate about natural birth and cesarean awareness feel the way we do.
ICAN is not an anti-cesarean organization. Women who advocate for cesarean awareness are not opposed to c-sections. Cesarean awareness is about making more women (and their partners) aware of the fact that most cesareans done in the United States are not necessary, and that c-sections carry greater risks than vaginal births. The c-section rate in the United States in 2008 was 32.3%. Georgia’s rate is even higher, and we rank last for maternal mortality in the U.S. There is a small percentage of women who choose elective c-section, and a small percentage of c-sections that are necessary for medical reasons. But most c-sections are not medically necessary, even when women are lead to believe that they are.
Women who advocate for natural birth and/or cesarean awareness don’t do it because we look down on other women’s choices. What we want is for all women to be allowed to make their own informed decisions. We want doctors to explain the true risks of cesarean surgery to their patients before cutting them. We have to speak up for natural birth so loudly because the hospitals don’t support it in a way that makes it possible for most women who would prefer it. We have no desire to force other women to have natural births; we only want to be able to choose hospital birth if we’re so inclined without having our own natural birth choices sabotaged by the system.
So when you see all of our Facebook and blog posts about birth-related topics, keep in mind that what we’re about is education. We want women to be informed, and we want them to be in control of how and where they give birth. If you’re someone who gave birth by cesarean and you’re pleased with your experience, then we’re pleased too. But there are many, many women who are not pleased, who feel they were cut unnecessarily, even deceived by the practice they trusted to help them with the births of their babies. Cesarean awareness is about educating the public, and supporting all women in making their own informed decisions about their births.