The Global Epidemic of Cesarean Surgery and the Feminist Movement

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The Global Epidemic of Cesarean Surgery and the Feminist Movement Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland writes in a 2002 paper she presented to the XVIII European Congress of Perinatal Medicine, “There is an ongoing “epidemic” of cesarean sections in Asia and Latin America. This worldwide fad of obstetrical interventions may have a serious negative health impact on women. In contrast, the low rates observed in Africa reflect a lack of resources more than a consensus of providers. The commercial and litigation pressures that drive this ‘epidemic’ need to be countered.” Her medical metaphor notwithstanding, this is a serious wake-up call for women to be asking the question, “What is going on that this phenomenon of major surgery on women is happening on such a wide scale?” We are here faced with the polar opposite extremes in birthing. Seemingly, if a woman has too little prenatal care and education regarding birthing (as in Africa) she may not have the access to a Cesarean when she truly needs it; and at the other end of the spectrum if a woman has enveloped herself in a system that relies too heavily on birthing technologies she may end up with an unnecessary Cesarean surgery. Other paradigms exist for birthing such as in Holland where every woman is provided with a midwife for her birth, and Brazil where the C-section rate tops 80 percent. Yet another microcosmic pocket of birth in the U.S. shows us that C-section rates can be achieved at below 2%. Such are the ranges of Cesarean birthing experiences and corresponding women’s movements that will be explored alongside the politics of birth in this Birthquake research project. Literary Review In doing this project the literature drawn from is largely non-scholarly for the reason that I am prevailing upon the reader to think outside the box about birth. Most of the “scholarly” research that is available was written by doctors or nurses/nurse midwives who were trained in the medical model of birth. Since part of my premise is that the high rate of Cesarean sections is caused in part by viewing birth as a medical and therefore pathological event, and in part for its emergence as a capitalistic industry, it was then necessary to find literature written by people who have expertise in birthing though not from the traditional obstetrical/medical school approach.

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