Saturday, March 27, 2010

US Has Waaaaaay Too Many Caesarian Births

One in three births in the US is currently a caesarian section (C-section).   The World Health Organization suggests that the normal percentage of C-sections should be about half what we currently have, i.e. about 15%. (I should note that other countries have even higher rates. In Puerto Rico and China, nearly 50% of all births are by caesarian.) Here is an article from the New York Times about the US C-section rate and its implications:
US C-Section Rate Hits All Time High

Some C-sections are for primary deliveries (first birth), while others are C-sections following an earlier C-section. Fewer than 10% of women who have had a C-section in the US will go on to have a subsequent vaginal birth, or VBAC. VBAC, is considered risky, but so is a caesarian. The National Institute of Health recently held a conference devoted specifically to VBAC. You can read about the NIH conference here (with links to lots of data, reports, etc):
NIH VBAC Conference

The issues of primary caesarian and VBAC are separate, but of course related. They reflect an overall state of extremely poor maternal health care in the US. Amnesty International recently released a report with some shocking statistics about birth in the US:

"The USA spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, women in the USA have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 40 other countries. For example, the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. These rates and disparities have not improved in more than 20 years."

Here is a link to Amnesty International's report, along with suggestions for action you can take:
Amnesty Campaign for Maternal Health

Interestingly, although Native Americans generally lag behind other Americans in nearly every aspect of prosperity and health care, in terms of labor and delivery, their very lack of access to what is considered state-of-the-art medical care may be working in their favor. A recent NY Times article looked at births in Tuba City, Arizona, where most patients are Native Americans, and most births are attended by midwives. A number of factors contribute to the low C-section rate here (about 13.5%) and the high VBAC rate (about 32%). One is just patience; vaginal births take a lot longer, on average, than C-sections. Midwives don't mind waiting. Another is compensation: "Doctors and midwives here earn salaries and are not paid by the procedure, so they have no financial incentive to perform surgery." Native American cultural traditions also play a part. Make sure to check out the beautiful narrated slide show that accompanies this article:
Lessons at Tuba City Hospital, Run by Navajos, About Births

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Black Women Breastfeeding: A Multi-Generational Story

As in most measures of American healthcare, black women lag behind white women in breastfeeding. The reasons are of course complex, but are rooted in socio-economic disparity, lack of education, and lack of equal access to healthcare. This video explores the issue of breastfeeding in several generations of an African-American family (ok so it's a celebrity family - Carol Jenkins was a long-time TV news anchor and correspondent and her daughter is a writer). The video isn't edited particularly tightly and has the feel of a home movie, but perhaps it will inspire other women to have a conversation with their mothers, or daughters. And dig that chubby little baby!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Upcoming Events!

I always feel a bit funny writing about events in NY, because I know that many of you don't live anywhere near here, but hopefully the associated links and websites will be of interest to my long-distance readers.

First, an event for the pregnant people in the audience, and those who hope to join them. Each month, Choices in Childbirth presents an evening of birth stories. From their website: "The evening features inspiring - not necessarily easy! - stories from three to four new parent storytellers and expert commentary from mother-friendly birth professionals. The stories tell of a range of births (stunningly short, impressively long, unexpectedly challenging, remarkably straightforward, twisty-turney, painless, orgasmic, painful, cesarean. VBAC, twins, etc.) and reflect a range of choices (home, birth center, hospital, midwife, Obstetrician, family practitioner, doula, family support, etc.)."

The next Birth Stories Evening is this coming Wednesday March 10, but the event is held monthly at various NYC locations. Here is the link for more info:
Birth Stories

If you're not in NY, check out the other resources on Choices in Childbirth's website, including their free guides to a healthy birth.

And on a completely different note, artist/musician/writer/activist Vanessa Boyd is launching a new website called To kick things off, she's teamed up with artist/activist Alexandra Jacoby, of vagina verite fame, to host an erotica writing salon on Sunday, April 25th, at 3PM. Here's how they're pitching it:

"A little food, a little wine, some heady Mid-town air... ladies only, come to an erotica writing workshop salon. Progressive Erotica is about challenging ourselves to create erotica that is based on equality and mutual respect, and still gets us off! All comfort and (non)experience levels welcome, pressure-free ~ participate at the level you want, whatever that is. This is part of a larger effort to create an online portal for erotic content and community discussion about our sexuality and our sensual journeys. will showcase erotica that looks beyond domination, submission and use of power and authority over another person for personal gratification."

If you want to attend, send an email to Alexandra at leavethecastle dot com. No charge for admission, and I suspect that you'll be able to see some of the V-portraits while you're there. If you don't know what V-portraits are, go to vagina verite right now!