Two years ago, I was blessed to witness the birth of a beautiful baby girl. Little did I know that years later, her Auntie would offer me insight into a world I have had a hard time understanding. Her name is Suzanne Shub and she lives in Brazil, a country that has the highest cesarean rate in the world. The cesarean rate is not high because the women in Brazil are designed in a way that makes vaginal birth impossible, but because they are choosing cesareans. More than half of all babies born in Brazil are delivered by cesarean, a figure that rises to 82 percent for women with private health insurance. Lately, the news has been getting out to other parts of the world that the women of Brazil are rebelling against the surgery’s popularity.
I wanted to hear from an inside source what was really going on. Were women choosing cesarean or were they rebelling against it? I contacted Suzanne to find out. Not only did she live in Brazil, but she has a pretty amazing job. She, and Vívian Scaggiante, own the company Além D’Olhar Fotografia, a company that specializes in birth videos and photography. Here is what she had to say about birth in Brazil:
“Most of our work over the last 3 years has focused on filming and photographing births in an attempt to encourage couples to recognize how important and beautiful natural childbirth can be. In February, we put our video of Sabrina’s home birth on You Tube and it went viral. In less than 2 weeks, more than 1 million people all over the world had watched the birth of Sabrina’s son Lucas.
We were contacted by news stations from all over the country who were interested in interviewing the birth team (a midwife, a neonatologist and a doula) in order to find out more about home and humanized birth (HUMANIZED BIRTH = birth that respects both mother and baby). They even began to question the high cesarean rate in Brazil.
Before we knew it, the weekly national television show ‘Fantástico’, watched by Brazilians from São Paulo to the Amazon, did a story on Sabrina’s home birth. They sought the opinion of a well known obstetrician who voiced his support for a woman’s right to choose where to give birth. This was enough for the Regional Medical Council in Rio de Janeiro to make a complaint against the obstetrician in an attempt to forbid doctors from performing home births. On Monday June 11, hours after this news had made it’s way to the internet, women across the country organized marches in 24 cities for the following weekend.
All of this upheaval marked the beginning of a string of conferences and lectures focusing on humanized and home births, and the issue became international news when it appeared on CNN.com at the beginning of this month.
On August 5, another march was organized in Rio de Janeiro in response to an announcement by the state’s Regional Medical Council, stating that doulas and midwives would no longer be permitted to accompany a woman in a hospital birth. Many private hospitals in the state of São Paulo are following suit. This means that a woman is no longer allowed to bring her humanized birth team into the hospital, which would ultimately give her more of a chance for a natural birth.
What can be done? Couples must be well informed about the reality of their pregnancy and when it is truly necessary to have a cesarean. Doctors in all private and public hospitals should be penalized if they do not respect a woman’s choices during her birth.
Spread the word about what is going on here in Brazil. Help make a change! Every woman and baby deserves respect!”
– Suzanne Shub
Let’s listen to her, and let’s help make a change. These women are choosing cesareans because their other options are being stripped from them. Their choice is cesarean or vaginal birth without the freedom to move, without a supportive birth team and without much hope for success. Not much of a choice! We need to take a stand for the women in Brazil as well as for the women in our own countries. As birth professionals, we see little bits of this seeping through the doors of our hospital rooms. It has to stop here. Spread the word!’
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