IT’S A WOMAN’S body and it should be her decision. In South America, women are fighting back against rulings that take their own birthing choices out of their hands.
A tipping point came in July, when a medical regulating agency in Rio de Janeiro forbade doctors from doing home births and labor coaches known as doulas from helping out in hospitals, saying “there are many complications possible during labor that require immediate medical attention.”
In response, women organized marches in 13 cities. In Sao Paulo, they bared their breasts and carried posters reading “Our Children, Our Decision” while chanting “Brazil, don’t follow Rio’s example.” They enacted natural births using dolls covered with Portuguese words reading “Born Free.”
After the resolution was reversed by court order July 30, about 200 people gathered in Rio to celebrate, with yet more banners and painted bellies defending women’s freedom to choose how their babies are born. Similar marches took place in 28 other Brazilian cities, where women also defended their right to reject episiotomies — cutting the vaginal opening to prevent tearing — and to have company during the birth. A 2005 law says women should have a companion of their choice during labor, but it’s frequently not respected.
The World Health Organization guidelines that caesarean section rates should stay between 10% to 15%, with numbers above this limit unhealthy for women, which has been affirmed by other studies.
This baseline figure by WHO has continually been broken in countries across the world, including in developed Western nations like Canada. In China, back in the 1990s, the rate ranged between 23% – 63%, according to the WHO.
The numbers of caesarean births in the United States also remains way too high.
The national U.S. cesarean section rate was 4.5% and near this optimal range in 1965 when it was first measured (Taffel et al. 1987). Since then, large groups of healthy, low-risk American women who have received care that enhanced their bodies’ innate capacity for giving birth have achieved 4% cesarean section rates and good overall birth outcomes (Johnson and Daviss 2005, Rooks et al. 1989). However, the national cesarean section rate is much higher and, after more than a decade of increasing steadily, has recently experienced the first dip since the mid-1990s. With the 2010 rate at 32.8% (Hamilton et al. 2011), about one mother in three now gives birth by cesarean section. – Why Is the National U.S. Cesarean Section Rate So High?