Joy Szabo got some bad news when she was seven months pregnant.
Because she had had a previous C-section, the hospital where she was planning to deliver would not let her have a vaginal birth with her fourth child.
Szabo’s story is written up on CNN’s Website (if you watch TV, you may have seen it on CNN as well): “Mom fights, gets the delivery she wants.”
But the title of the article is misleading. The hospital and the doctor did not change their policy after the Szabos insisted. Instead, Szabo and her husband had to move six hours away to Phoenix, Arizona (they live in Page) three weeks before the baby was due in order to go to a hospital that would let her deliver her baby vaginally.
I am so grateful to women like Szabo who refuse to let American doctors dictate what is best for them. But I’m sickened to think of all the women in this country who are being forced or coerced into having unnecessary C-sections.
Though a C-section can sometimes be a lifesaving measure, the vast majority of the time it is totally unnecessary. Yet almost one third of women in America are having C-sections.
The high C-section rate in this country is unacceptable, unfair, and unhealthy.
Some people in the medical establishment argue that a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), which is what Szabo wanted, is dangerous because of the increased risk of the uterus rupturing.
Yet hundreds of thousands of women have VBACs with no complications at all, in the hospital, in birthing centers, at home, and even at home unassisted. After explaining the different risks, doctors who attend hospital births need to let women and their families decide for themselves.
Instead, the medical establishment is trying to mandate C-sections. A C-section is a major surgery that is much more risky than vaginal labor and delivery and much harder to recover from. C-sections can lead to chronic pelvic pain, hemorrhage, blood clots, infection, and even maternal death.
If that’s not enough, most people don’t know that there is a new kind of surgery for stitching up the uterus that might be partially to blame for the increased risks associated with VBACS.
Called the “Misgav-Ladach method” or “single-layer suturing,” in this surgery the uterus is stitched up in a single layer instead of in two layers. According to Ina May Gaskin, two-layer suturing has been the standard of care for more than 75 years.
Single-layer suturing has been associated with placenta percreta, a once extremely rare condition where the placenta grows over the uterine scar and can sometimes grow into other organs like the bladder, as well. Single-layer suturing has also has been associated with unprecedented bleeding, failure to heal, and other post C-section complications.
Gaskin cites a study in Montreal of 2,142 women that found that single-layer suturing comes with a four-times higher risk of uterine rupture than double-layer method (Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, page 284).
But HMOS and hospitals save money on the single-layer method because it is faster for the doctors and reduces the time a surgeon needs to spend in the operating room.
Is doctor convenience and HMO costs really how we make health care decisions for laboring women in our country?
Unfortunately the answer is yes.
It is impossible that one third of American women actually need C-sections.
Joy Szabo did not.
She delivered a healthy baby boy on December 5th after an uncomplicated labor.
Photos courtesy of Jenny Johnson.