Maternal Health Task Force

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Brazil Has One of the World’s Highest Rates of Cesarean Births, NPR Reports

By: Kate Mitchell, Manager of the MHTF Knowledge Management System, Women and Health Initiative

On May 12th, NPR ran a story, C-Sections Deliver Cachet For Wealthy Brazilian Women, that explores the extraordinary numbers of Cesarean deliveries occurring in Brazil. The author discusses various factors that might be contributing to the issue: To what extent are women demanding Cesarean births? Are doctors pressuring women to opt for surgery? Are Cesarean births becoming a “status” symbol? The author also examines the role of doulas, or birth coaches–and raises questions about how doulas, fairly uncommon in Brazil, might serve as a critical intervention in supporting women who would like to have a vaginal birth but are feeling pressured into a Cesarean delivery. Excerpt from the piece:

There is a debate in Brazil as to why the rate here is so high. Doctors like Sasaoka say it’s due to the demand. But new mother Mariana — who doesn’t want her last name used for fear of offending her doctor — says often women feel bullied into it. She says she wanted to have a vaginal delivery. “My doctor said to me he’d have more control in a C-section than in a natural birth,” she says. He also told her he would also almost certainly have to do an episiotomy — a procedure where the vaginal opening gets cut to allow for delivery. She was terrified. She says her doctor kept telling her that C-sections were better, and that she felt pressure to have one.

Read the full story. Listen to the audio version of the story. Learn about the Maternal Health Task Force’s work to better understand the under- and over-use of Cesarean births in low-income countries. 

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