Cesareans: Are Cesareans Really a Safe Option?

Why Do Obstetricans Think the Way They Do?
How can obstetricians hold beliefs so contrary to the facts? Primarily because "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." Despite rhetoric about being "women's health physicians," obstetricians are surgical specialists in the pathology of women's reproductive organs. The belief that birth is difficult, dangerous, and damaging and that major surgery is preferable validates and reinforces their sense of professional worth.
Other motives also come into play. Obstetricians are hardly disinterested parties when it comes to cesarean versus vaginal birth. Cesarean section offers them protection from malpractice suits (they think), convenience and efficient use of their time, and in some cases, more money. Given this, you can readily understand why many obstetricians are willing to deny or rationalize the risks of cesareans and to delude themselves and their patients on these points.

Don't be deceived by the issue being framed as denying a woman's right to choose. This has nothing to do with making an informed decision based on an objective understanding of the pros and cons of the various options. The "right" to a cesarean is the sole instance where obstetricians have ever championed a woman's right to determine any aspect of her care other than, perhaps, her right to refuse an epidural. The fact that so many women believe cesarean section to be a safe, easy, and less painful way to have a baby and have exaggerated ideas of the dangers of normal birth is proof positive that obstetricians have been derelict in their duty both to help their patients make informed choices and to practice evidence-based care.

Henci Goer, award-winning medical writer, is the author of The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth. Her previous book, Obstetric Myths versus Research Realities, is a highly acclaimed resource for childbirth professionals, and she is an acknowledged expert on evidence-based maternity care. Goer has written consumer education pamphlets and numerous articles for magazines as diverse as Reader's Digest and Childbirth Instructor. For twenty years, Goer has been a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator and labor support professional (doula).

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