Friday, February 16, 2007

Half of all Chinese women having cesareans

I laughed when I saw this story posted on the China Post website under the banner advertisement for "Business Opportunities."

China's caesarean section birth ratio dwarfs WHO standard
Updated: 2007-02-15 21:05

BEIJING -- The ratio of caesarean section births in China has soared to 50 percent, far exceeding the standard of 15 percent set by the World Health Organization, medical experts say.

The ratio of caesarean births in China remained at five percent from 1950s to 1970s, but now some urban hospitals have a C-section rate of more than 60 percent.

It is widely believed that one of the reasons for the sharp rise is that doctors recommend C-section delivery to pregnant women to boost their earning power.

"Caesarean sections earn doctors higher profits so doctors tend to persuade pregnant women to have a caesarean," said a doctor who did not wish to be named.

In Beijing's hospitals, the operation and hospital fees for a caesarean section are three to four times higher than that of a natural birth. At the Union Medical College Hospital, it costs 1600 yuan (US$205) for a natural labour, but 4000 yuan (US$480) for a caesarean section.

The C-section, commonly viewed as an emergency procedure, is also being seen as an alternative to the pain associated with natural birth. Many pregnant women see C-section delivery as a pain-free process without any knowledge of the potential consequences.

"C-sections can cause some bad aftereffects to both mothers and children. Doctors should make the risks known to pregnant women, but only a few choose to do so," the doctor added.

Pan Junfeng, a gynecologist in Beijing's Haidian District Hospital of Maternity and Child Care, said, "The chances of postoperative infection for caesarean sections is 10 to 20 times higher than that for natural labor and the death ratio of pregnant women for caesarean section is five times higher."

"The chance of subsequently suffering from depression is 6.28 times higher and there is also a greater chance of haemorrhage," Pan added.

Pan said "Expectant mothers in China often have the mistaken idea that it is safer and less painful to have a caesarean section, while it's quite the contrary."

Medical experts have urged doctors to explain to pregnant women and their family members the two methods of delivery, making it clear that caesarean section can have a negative effect on both babies and mothers.

They also advocate regular psychological consultation for pregnant mothers and recommend doctors to encourage natural birth.