Time Magazine Calls Vaginal Birth a Traumatic Alternative to Cesarean

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I clicked over from Facebook to see the story behind the mass breastfeeding picture in this article and discovered what the editors at Time Magazine found relevant to link as related posts.

In Best and Worst Moms Ever, Time ranks the best and worst moms of all time, leaving their readers on tenterhooks waiting for the Best and Worst Dads Ever feature.

The article, The Labor Market, describes vaginal birth as “the not always .. appealing alternative” to a maternal request cesarean.

Nobody questions the rightness of cesareans performed in a medical emergency (which account for up to 20% of the total), but those made simply at the request of the mother, known as “elective cesareans,” are associated with a number of pitfalls. Before these are addressed, however, it is worth remembering that vaginal delivery is not always an appealing alternative.

Utter the phrase “natural childbirth” and the mind envisages a stoic and earnest woman, surrounded by murmuring midwives in a softly lit room, where ambient music plays and tea lights flicker. Upon the elapse of some decent, manageable labor, she pushes out her baby with honest grunts. While that may be true for some, for most women natural childbirth is one of the most violent physical traumas they will ever experience, bar a serious accident or grievous assault. The average length of labor for a first-time mother is anything from seven to 12 hours, but it can easily be 20 hours or more. During that time, she is wracked by contractions — a euphemism that doesn’t even come close to conveying the violent spasms that take hold when the body reflexively tries to squeeze a baby through a narrow vaginal opening. The forces involved are such that when the baby’s head emerges, it can do so with sufficient pressure to rip the mother’s perineum and leave grind marks on pubic bone. In many ways, the act of giving birth resembles a medical emergency — in fact, if no medical intervention of any kind were made, up to 1 in 67 women would die in labor. Fear of birth pain is thus legitimate and it is no wonder that many women elect to have C-sections — especially when the procedure is over in about 40 minutes and feels no more uncomfortable, in the words of an anesthetist in one of Hong Kong’s top maternity hospitals, “than someone rummaging around in your tummy.” When cost is not an issue, women express even greater interest in cesareans. In Hong Kong, just over 45% of private-hospital births are surgical, compared to a territory-wide rate of 27%.

I enjoyed many birth-related articles in Time Magazine over the last year, namely Pamela Paul’s February article, The Trouble With Repeat Cesareans and Ada Calhoun’s August article, Giving Birth at Home. However, I just couldn’t find it in me to follow the link from Why Pregnancy Sucks to read about “the boom in adult single mothers.” Judging and rating mothers is one of the mainstream media’s number one spectator sports.

 

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