Just when you forget how horrible and irresponsible women are with medical decisions, you can depend on the media to remind you

So you know what’s always fun? When a newspaper digs up a study from the “well, duh” files, decides that it needs fresh coat of paint, and decides to use the “women are stupid and selfish” brush.

And here we go, my fix for the week: an Australian newspaper on how unnecesasry c-sections are dangerous.

WOMEN who choose caesarean births double the risk of death and illness to themselves and the baby, a new study has found.

Doctors are now urging women to give birth naturally if they can.

Doctors say most women who choose caesarean sections do so for important medical and psychological reasons, but there are a number who just want to avoid a vaginal birth.

And some doctors encourage the decision because of the decreased legal liability. . . .

The report published yesterday in the British Medical Journal found non-emergency caesareans were linked to twice the risk of death, hysterectomy, blood transfusions and admission to intensive care, compared to women who had a vaginal birth.

There was a five times higher risk of having to have antibiotic treatment after birth.

There also is a 70 per cent higher chance of a baby born by either elective or medically-advised caesarean dying before discharge from hospital.

Well, yes, you may be saying, doctors are performing too many c-sections that women don’t need, and it’s causing a lot of problems. We know that. I don’t see any woman-hate!

Well, that’s because you missed the little line about women “who just want to avoid a vaginal birth.” The paper sure didn’t! What’s the title of the article?

Vain C-sections kill more babies

Ah, yes. It’s not the c-section, it’s the vanity. Doctors aren’t performing c-sections for their vanity, since regardless of how they deliver the baby, their vaginas aren’t going to change, so it has to be the woman’s fault. Nope, the problem isn’t doctors trying to needlessly talk women into c-sections because of liability concerns, time concerns or general laziness or impatience. It’s the women who have caused the 40% increase in c-section rates in the U.S. in the last ten years. They probably don’t want labor to interfere with their hair appointments!

Before someone says it: yes, there is a small number of women who schedule c-sections for non-medical reasons. They are the minority, and in either case shouldn’t doctors being saying “that’s not healthy?” Not because I think that doctors should make medical decisions for women — in fact, that’s precisely what I’m arguing against — but because most of this small minority of women probably don’t know. C-sections have become so common that no one bats an eye anymore. And hell, they always go well on TV. They always save lives on TV (as they should when properly performed in real life) instead of taking them.

But seeing as how 29% of babies in the U.S. are born via c-section (!) and women are doing their best to prevent this and not being heard, there’s no way that this is a “vain woman” problem. It’s a “many doctors don’t listen to their patients, particularly female ones” problem, an “intimidating women with unnecessary fear” problem, a “doctors are more worried about lawsuits than the welfare of their patients” problem and a “birth is over-medicalized because it makes more money that way” problem.

Oh, and notice how the study found that women who have c-sections have twice the risk of “death, hysterectomy, blood transfusions and admission to intensive care, compared to women who had a vaginal birth,” but it’s the babies and only the babies who are being “killed?” That’s some nice “women aren’t a part of pregnancy” and “babies are more important than their mothers” anti-choice rhetoric slipping in.

So, to sum up, remember: the c-section problem is not about doctors making birth-related decisions that are harmful and potentially fatal to both woman and baby without providing the woman in question with all of the facts, but about selfish women killing their babies cause they’re selfish, oh, and selfish, too. Good to know.

0 thoughts on “Just when you forget how horrible and irresponsible women are with medical decisions, you can depend on the media to remind you

  1. dew

    Yes, doctors definitely do a lot of unnecessary c-sections for their convenience. But there are also times when a c-section will save a woman’s and a baby’s lives. And what happens is that women who become informed and insist on vaginal births are often resisting a doctor who IS trying to save lives, because they’ve been told the doctors are doing it to stick to their schedules or something. I’m perplexed about the comment about vaginas changing, though. Is this really a concern? I’ve had a c-section and a vaginal birth (after the c-section, which many doctors will claim is not possible) and my vagina is the same as it ever was.

    Oh, and doctors also usually shave your pubic hair, give laboring mothers enemas, and perform episiotomies for their own convenience. Don’t let them.

  2. Cara Post author

    I agree that doctors who really are trying to save a woman’s life are going to be hindered by the grotesque c-section rate, which is yet another reason why they need to stop doing unnecessary ones. This is why it’s good to have a doula who understands the process and potential complications and can help a woman make the best choices. Though, of course, you should be able to expect that doctors would do that.

    I’ve never given birth, so I have no idea what actually happens to a vagina afterwards. But the concern is that the vaginal walls because stretched out, making the woman less “tight,” i.e. supposedly less able to give and receive sexual pleasure. It’s a common fear, and since diaphragms and diva cups are often fitted by whether or not a woman has given birth, and since there’s the horrible tradition of the extra “husband stitch” after an episiotomy,I imagine that there has to be some truth to it, though whether it’s big or small I do not know.

    The problem of doctors insisting that women have c-sections in all births after a c-section birth is a big one. I’ve heard many, many stories of doctors flat out refusing to attempt vaginal births for any woman who has had a c-section. [I swear that there was a great thread on Feministe about this but now I can’t find it to save my life.]

    And I was under the impression that the shaving and enemas went out of style a long time ago. Am I wrong on that? (Well, since you didn’t give birth decades ago, I must be.)

  3. Jay

    Shaving and enemas are far from routine; I never saw them and I last entered a delivery room 20 years ago, in med school. I’m not saying they’re never done, just that they’re not the standard of care on the east coast of the US, where I trained.

    It’s really not so much the money and convenience, it’s the liability issue that pushes the docs. And giving birth vaginally after a c-section isn’t allowed at most community hospitals in my area because they don’t have 24-hour surgical back-up in case of an emergency. Yes, there are lots of unnecessary c-sections and yes, the medical community needs to respond more effectively but it’s not “greedy doctors” any more than it’s “vain women”. As H. L. Mencken said, “for every complex question there is a simply answer, and it’s wrong”.

  4. Mary Tracy9

    JESUS CHRIST! How do they DARE say it’s women’s fault with all the women complaining they had an unnecessary c-section done without wanting to.

    And at any rate, women’s voices are the LAST ONES being heard during labour.

    Worse still, even if there were women out there getting c-sections out of “vanity”, it’s not difficult too work out WHY they would be concerned about their vaginas not being “the same”. HINT: MEN!.

    Misogyny directed at mothers, the worst kind there is.

  5. Cara Post author

    For the record, I mean the “birth is over-medicalized because it makes more money that way” comment as a criticism of hospitals, not doctors, but I can see how that might have been unclear. And the “many doctors don’t listen to their patients, particularly female ones” comment should actually say “medical staff” instead of doctors, because I have been in my share of hospitals and nurses and lab technicians are very often just as bad with acting like they know when a patient is in pain better than the patient does, not telling the patient what is happening, etc., as doctors are. That’s my bad.

  6. brandann

    VERY coincidental that you post this today. a friend of mine is getting ready to have a baby, just took her “labour and delivery” tour, at the end of which you fill out all of you pre-reg. forms. at the bottom of the form it reads “you have the right to refuse any medical treatment”. well, we are active duty. a lot of rules don’t apply to us. so my friend asked, “does this apply to active duty as well?”, and the nurse shot her a look. then answered, “no, active duty personel have no say whatsoever in their health care”. when she informed the nurse that she was active duty, and didn’t want pitocin or to “force” her baby to come b/f he is ready (her second, btw), the nurse told her, “you get five hours to deliver, and then we do a c-section. end of argument”. now i understand forcing service members to get vaccines and such, but this seems pretty unreasonable to me. also, it is a teaching hospital, and we are not allowed to refuse treatment by a student. not exactly on topic…but a strange coincidence…and an example of forced c-sections.

  7. Cara Post author

    Very scary. As I understand it, this is why a lot of doulas and other pregnancy advocates tell you to WAIT to go to the hospital instead of going as soon as you start having contractions.

  8. Jay

    Cara, I appreciate the clarification. It’s such a (needlessly) complex system. My profession has fought “socialized medicine” for over 60 years and we’ve succeeded – we don’t have government-run health care, we have corporate-run health care. Far worse in almost every way. This is one of the many reasons why I don’t belong to the county or state medical societies or the AMA.

  9. Ran

    I think “vain” might have just been poor word choice; yes, it can have to do with vanity, but it can also have to do with pointlessness/futility (“a vain effort”), and I’m guessing (but obviously can’t know for sure) that’s what the headline writer was going for. Keep in mind that headlines are generally written to be as short as possible, and this is famous for introducing ambiguities that would easily be resolved by an extra word or more-precise-but-longer word.

    (By the way, I’ve seen plenty of news articles complain about how stupid men are about medical decisions, e.g. choosing surgery for prostate cancer even when it’s sufficiently slow-growing that it’s likely never to be a problem. In all cases it would be nice if journalists simply stuck to the facts rather than advocating certain interpretations — e.g. that it’s the fault of patients rather than of medical professionals or of the structure of the health-care industry, or vice versa — but I don’t think this is a specifically sexist or misogynistic bias.)

  10. Michelle

    My favourite quote about “socalised medicine” from a Mitt Rommney “vox pop”:

    “Her friend Clare Roy said: “I don’t want socialised medicine. We’re free to go to the doctors we want and not be told by the government.”

    *tries hard to remember when the Australian government last told me what doctor I had to go and see*

    *gives up*

    The most interesting thing about that comment is that it’s a lie. Sure the government is not telling you which doctor to go to. It’s some pen pushing office worker in an insurance company who decides what doctor you can go to (especially if you have an HMO). I have an American friend that has an extremely good health insurance policy and they still have to go to “their company’s” doctors.

    US politicians make a lot of hay by telling voters that European socialised medicine is a terrible morass of government run hospitals which make you wait months and months for sub-standard treatment. They also claim that all medical decisions are made by faceless officials and that all doctors are somehow enslaved to the government.

    Then again, they also claim that the rather tepid Clinton health care reform act of the 1990s was an attempt at a government takeover of US health care. Naturally, the lie has been repeated so often that most people automatically parrot it without actually knowing any details of the original plan. In any case, I find it funny that the women in the article who are in their 70s and likely on Medicare would be complaining about “socialised medicine”.

    Jay – V. Baird reminds us that the medical profession has a large economic stake in retaining control over their patients – especially disabled and chronically ill patients – despite the fact that that most of the problems such people face are social and environmental. (Baird,1992,New Internationalist)

  11. Cara

    Indeed, Anna. Journalists are, in fact, professional writers. If they, or the copy editor, cannot come up with the word “unnecessary,” well . . . I don’t even know what to think. And though I know from living there for three years that Australians sometimes use words in ways that we might find unusual, “vain” is not one of them.

  12. dew

    Isn’t a doctor coming along telling a woman who has just stated her experience with two births what’s “routine” and what’s not exactly the sort of overbearing bullying we’re complaining about here? Yes, they are routine. Maybe not 20 years ago and maybe not on the east coast. But the east coast 20 years ago is not my experience. And my experience is valid.


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