Australia’s C-Section Epidemic

As parents, planning for labour is something we’ve all done. We plan home births, water births, hospital births, caesareans, with anaesthetic, without anaesthetic and a whole host of other stipulations that would make for the perfect labour and birth. However, sometimes our plans and our unborn bub’s plans are misaligned, meaning last minute changes to the plan we’ve had for 9 months or more. However, with the number of births by C-section in Australia at 32 per cent (compared to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of 10-15 per cent), it begs the question, have we normalised this major surgery?

Research shows that countries with obstetrician-led maternity wards have higher rates of intervention than those with programs led by midwives. Many European countries are midwife-led and have C-section rates in line with WHO’s recommendation. In contrast, Australia is obstetrician-led.

Whilst women should absolutely have the right to choose how they want to birth their baby, concerns have been raised over the past few years by various health organisations that Australian women are becoming increasingly desensitised to the undertaking of a C-section, and are sometimes planning this way without considering or properly understanding the consequences.

And it’s not just choice. Australia’s obstetrician-led maternity wards could be another reason behind emergency C-sections too; whereas midwifery care views birth as a normal life event, obstetrics can treat birth as a medical procedure. Obstetricians have argued that the number of C-sections has risen in correlation to rising age and weight of mothers but researchers have claimed that where women live and whether she is covered by private health insurance are the greatest factors.

Obviously, C-sections are necessary for some women, whether emergency or planned, yet there is a still a raging debate surrounding caesareans for births with no medical reason for the procedure. Midwife, Hannah Dahlen told SBS, “You can find a medical reason for anything. Whether or not it’s a good medical reason is the question, and a lot of pseudo reasons are being used to argue women into C-sections.” Conversely, Obstetrician, Dr Michael Permazel argues, “I just can’t see that there’s any reason why an obstetrician would prefer C-sections for their patients. The C-section is about advising on the safest mode for her and her baby.”

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