A new investigative report released by California Watch reports that maternal mortality rates in California have seen a spike in recent years, almost tripling in the last ten years.
To me, there is one clear cause of this kind of increase, and that’s the c-section rate, which according to California Watch have increased 50% in the same decade in CA.
The World Health Organization recommends a c-section rate of about 10%. We currently have a national average of 30%. In some hospitals it’s as high as 90%.
C-sections are major abdominal surgery. There are risks involved, and with so many c-sections, you’re going to start having deaths as a result.
We need less c-sections. Period.
The other thing this report revealed was that there was significant increase in maternal mortality among non-Hispanic whites, a group traditionally excluded from maternal mortality and low infant birth weights. Well again, this is probably because of the c-section rates, which might even be higher among this group than women of color.
The idea that increases in technology use could actually harm women, rather than help them, is impossible to believe for the OB-GYN community:
When researchers unveiled their initial findings to a conference of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2007, there were gasps from the audience, according to participants at the San Diego event. The idea that California was moving backward even in an era of high-tech birthing was implausible to some.
This is exactly the point. Overusing technology it’s just as harmful as under-utilizing it. The bottom line is that OB-GYNs are trained as surgeons, and their dominance of maternity care is proof of that–they are performing more and more surgeries than ever.
We need practitioners who are trained to care for women birthing without technology, namely midwives. Technology has a role, but it should be the exception not the rule. And let’s be clear here. It’s not just c-sections that are to blame. It’s also increasing induction rates, epidurals and other medical interventions that disrupt the process and are more likely to cause interventions.
“For every maternal death, there are 10 near misses; for every near miss, there are 10 severe morbidity cases (such as hysterectomy, hemorrhage, or infection), and for every severe morbidity case, there is another 10 morbidity cases related to childbirth,” Camacho wrote in an e-mail.