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C-Section Used to Deliver 30% of U.S. Births

My husband and I interviewed a Doula yesterday. One of the many things we discussed was my birth plan. My desire is to have a natural birth. No drugs. No cutting. Lots of love and laughter.

Living in the U.S., though, I am concerned about being pressured into a having a caesarean, also known as a c-section. As I was scanning the news last night, I saw an article from the LA Times. The by-line? The C-section epidemic: More women are dying in childbirth thanks to the high numbers of doctors and mothers who opt out of normal delivery.

According to the article, there are 13.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S. Much more alarming is the fact that if a woman is black, she is 4 times more likely to die from childbirth, with a rate of 34.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births! The main factor? Unnecessary caesareans.

According to the World Health Organization, a hospital's caesarean rate should not exceed 15%. When it does, women suffer more infections, hemorrhages and deaths, and babies are more likely to be born prematurely or die. And yet, in the U.S., 30% of women deliver birth via a c-section. Crazy, no?

I am so curious about maternal health care in other countries. What's it like where you are from? Are midwives the norm? Are most babies delivered in the home or at the hospital? Is childbirth considered a human condition or a medical condition?

To read the full article, please copy this link into your browser:


Maria Jett's picture

World Pulse's Global Midwives Author

Hi there, Jennifer,

Great post; I almost included this article in our newsletter this week. It got crowded out though, so I'm thrilled to see it reappear here!

I don't have any answers for you myself, but perhaps you should consider signing up for a seminar from Robbie Davis-Floyd.

She's the author of World Pulse's article "Global Midwives:
Birthing the Future," which begins:

Since the dawn of humanity, birth—in its raw, awe-invoking splendor—has traditionally been the domain of the trusted and skilled hands of village midwives. Called "the special ones," the "Grand Midwives," and "spiritual healers," they carefully guarded the sacred threshold from womb to the world.

That article also contains links to 5 global midwifery resources. Check it out here.

I look forward to reading other people's responses to your questions, too!

Maria Jett, Online Community Director

Corine Milano's picture

Further Reading

Jennifer, what a wonderful and thought provoking entry. You likely have already read this, but for the readers out there who haven't, Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions is a wonderful book that focuses on this issue of the forced medicalization of pregnancy and motherhood. You can find a link to it here:

I am also interested to hear answers to your questions regarding pregnancy attitudes in other countries.

This was in my FeedReader this morning, Jennifer. Thought you might be interested to know about it!...


Deliver Now for Women + Children: Historic Global Drive to Improve Maternal Health and Reduce Child Deaths is Launched in New York City; Unveiling of Country Specific Programs in India, Tanzania to Follow.

Deliver Now is coordinated by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn &
Child Health and is being launched in support of a new global push to achieve
the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to health. It is part of
the Global Campaign for the Health Millennium Development Goals, which will be
unveiled September 26 by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway at the
Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. The Global Campaign is supported
by several governments including the UK, Norway, Canada, France and Germany,
as well as a number of prominent global health and advocacy organizations. The
launch of Deliver Now follows the recent launch of the International Health
Partnership in London by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other world
leaders. Deliver Now is specifically dedicated to advancing MDGs 4 and 5,
which call for the reduction of child deaths by two-thirds and annual
reduction of maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015.

Deliver Now's first country-specific programs will include:

-- Advocacy for Maternal and Child Health in India - Currently, 20
percent of the world's births are in India but 25 percent of the world's child
deaths and 20 percent of the world's maternal deaths occur there as well.
Deliver Now will work with local organizations to implement a program to build
political will to ensure delivery of services and raise awareness in the
Indian states of Orissa and Rajasthan.

-- Advocacy for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Tanzania -
Tanzania currently faces a critical shortage of qualified health workers to
assist during childbirth, with 54 percent of women receiving no skilled
attendance. As a result, a woman dies of pregnancy-related complications every
hour of every day. Deliver Now will work to deliver services and raise
awareness in the Tanzanian districts of Geita, Monduli, Sumbawanga, Morogoro,
and Babati.

To find out more about Deliver Now for Women + Children, visit

Maria Jett, Online Community Director

Maria Jett's picture

Maria Jett, Online Community

Maria Jett, Online Community Director

Corine Milano's picture

another relevant link

Hi again, Jennifer!

I found this link while browsing my reader this afternoon, and immediately thought of you. So until there's a private messaging option, I figured I'd post it on this entry for you to take a look at. It paints a pretty grim image of maternal health today, but it's solutions focused and has a lot of info about recent conferences etc.

Julie L's picture

Good for you for planning a

Good for you for planning a natural birth! It will be much more empowering and healthy, and will create a stronger bond between you two. (I've worked as doula and feel strongly about these issues.)

The research for normal and natural births is there, and is so often ignored. All of the countries with the best infant mortality rates primarily use midwives.

For some amazingly solid research on these topics, check out:
Former WHO Director Marsden Wagner's book Born in the U.S.A.
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone for your awesome comments. Henci Goer's book has been recommended so many times it's become a must-have... especially since Shawn and I skipped out on our birthing class. There was no love or warmth in that room. Luckily our doula is giving us one-on-one classes over the next few weeks!

I started to read an article on about c-sections. I haven't gotten all the way through it, but thought I'd share anyway:


Dear Jennifer:

In Bolivia we have midwives in rural areas where there are no hospitals. In urban areas doctors only do cesareans when it is impossible to deliver the natural way.Middle class and high class women choose a c-section because it gives them the opportunity to decide the date of delivery.

But I'd much rather tell you about my own experience, with 4 natural deliveries. Every child is different, but as a general rule, the second baby is much easier to deliver, and the third doesn't even hurt. Later in my life I needed surgery for an ovarian cyst and had an openning exactly like a c-section. Believe me, by making the comparison I can tell you positively that post operational and post natural delivery are not the same. The c-section is much more painful and time consuming.

So, to me, you've made a great choice which will give you more quality of life with your new baby and will allow for you to be more relaxed in the post delivery stage. God bless you and your new baby.

I admire mothers who work while expecting. I could not do it. You are one piece of a woman, and I love your spirit.



OOPS!!! Sorry, I just realized this post was made in September 2007, I wrote the above thinking you were about to have another child, not Jonah.

Sorry again.


Jacqueline Patiño FundActiva
Tarija - Bolivia
South America

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