China has the highest rate of births by Cesarean sections in the world: between 2007-8, 46% of births were C-sections, nearly twice the rate as the rest of Asia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average worldwide rate falls around a quarter of all births, which means that half of such operations in the mainland are chosen when medically unnecessary.
Why are C-sections, which pose health risks to both the mother and child, unnecessarily prevalent in China? The culpability falls on both sides of birthing: women often decide to go under the knife rather than perform a live birth, which is more painful and has…cosmetic repercussions. In addition, C-sections allow for the convenience of choosing when you want to give birth, which means parents can choose a more auspicious day to have their child.
Naturally, the families aren’t the only ones to blame: more than 60% of the hospitals in question were motivated by financial incentives to perform the costlier surgery. A C-section costs a patient 7,000 yuan, which is three and half times more expensive than a regular birth. And though it’s most likely a side effect of economic development that provides the option for more choice and comfort in childbirth, the prevalence of the practice has given people bizarre ideas about birthing:
From the Associated Press:
In Asia, some women opt for the surgery to choose their delivery day after consulting fortune tellers for “lucky” birthdays or times. Others fear painful natural births or worry their vaginas may be stretched or damaged by a normal delivery. Some women also prefer the operation because they mistakenly believe it is less risky.
“I think it’s safer for the mother and child to have C-sections, and the relatives feel more secure because it’s very simple and very common now,” said a Vietnamese woman, Trang Thanh Van, 25, just days away from giving birth to her first child. “People worry that using tools to pull the baby out (in a vaginal birth) may affect their brains.”
Eesh. Sadly, the opposite is the case: mothers are at higher risk due to surgical complications, and U.S. studies have found that C-section babies are at higher risk of developing respiratory diseases. Though we find it disturbing that convenience and financial incentive are the reasons behind the epidemic, we’re not too surprised.