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Are private hospitals pushing pregnant women to have C-Sections?

A lobby group says money is a driving force in pushing mother’s to have C-sections instead of vaginal birth.

FILE. A lobby group says money is a driving force in pushing mother’s to have C-sections instead of vaginal birth. Picture: Supplied.

CAPE TOWN - The My Birth My Choice campaign says there are a number of issues surrounding women having Caesarean sections (C-sections) in South Africa.

Last year, the Council for Medical Schemes revealed nearly 70 percent of births by women covered by a medical aid scheme were by C-section, which raised concern among some health professionals due to safety concerns around the procedure.

Patti Good, who leads the My Birth My Choice campaign, which aims to lower the C-section rate in South Africa's private sector, says money is a huge driving force.

"The argument that comes back from the gynaecology profession is that their insurance premiums are so high and that they keep being pushed up."

Good says the latest figures released indicate that gynaecologists are paying around R23,000 a month on insurance.

"I spoke to a gynaecologists' office this week and one birth is costing R15,000, so we're looking at two births to cover their insurance."

In a report, University of Cape Town (UCT) gynaecologist, Professor Lynette Denny said in some Cape Town hospitals, over 90 percent of child births were by C-section.

The high number of child births via this method in the private medical sector is reportedly due to private hospitals pushing pregnant women to undergo the procedure, so they can have more births.

Good says there's a huge convenience factor.

"I have been told on numerous occasions by senior medical professionals that they would be quite happy with a 100 percent C-section rate."

WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG ISSUE?

Good says there are a number of issues surrounding the high percentage of C-sections in the country.

"The research that I have done has indicated that the women don't want the C-sections. It indicates that over 80 percent of women actually want natural birth and feel like they were coerced, pushed and bullied into surgical birth that they neither wanted nor needed."

She says there are a number of reasons that doctors are encouraging women to go in this direction but adds the factors play in the doctors' favour and not in the mother or infants.

LONG TERM IMPLICATIONS

The My Birth My Choice campaign head says there are long term implications that arise from having a C-section, especially for the baby.

"We see a dramatic increase in respiratory issues as these babies are suctioned. The second issue is that when a baby is born vaginally, its gut flora is populated by the mother's own bacteria and when [the birth] is surgical the flora is being populated by the theatre and the first person that touches it."

Good says that has a dramatic effect on the baby's long term immune health.

"Long term health implications like asthma, diabetes, immune conditions and allergy responses in children are compromised and that has a major implication to worldwide healthcare moving forward.

WHAT'S THE SOLUTION?

Good says this issue in itself is incredibly easy to solve.

"The solution lies with the moms; it's up to the women to start doing better research."

She says the biggest kept secret is that women who have a great birth experience feel like heroes.

LISTEN: Are private hospitals pushing pregnant women to have C-Sections in SA?

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