Thursday, July 5, 2012

Maternal Choice Caesareans: Misunderstanding, Misinformation and Misogyny is Still Alive and Well in Canada

Recently, Jamie Komarnicki of the Calgary Herald wrote a news story about a doctor (Dr. Magnus Murphy) who is publicly advocating for women to be able to have the choice of caesarean. The story got a lot of play across the country and has been picked up by many other news papers, and has resulted in a number of radio interviews. Dr. Magnus Murphy, is a urogynecologist and a former obstetrician. He has seen first-hand the longer run effects that normal birth has on women and has spent a good part of his career surgically correcting those problems. That’s right, the big push to avoid surgery (c-sections) – often results in surgery months or years later for many women. Recently, Dr. Murphy teamed up with journalist and well-known caesarean advocate Pauline Hull and published what is the most comprehensive and compelling book on the subject to date, Choosing Caesarean, and despite its title, neither Dr. Murphy, nor Pauline Hull is about selling caesareans to everyone or out-rightly abandoning the way children have come into the world since the start of humanity. Rather, they see it as a reasonable treatment option that should be considered relative to the default of vaginal delivery – one that will be appropriate for some and inappropriate for others. They see it as a matter of informed consent and choice – and they also see women being denied an opportunity to make a choice that might be of clear benefit to themselves as individuals. They present clear evidence of the often generally unknown facts of these two delivery options.

It’s good that this information is getting out there and that the universal supremacy of normal birth is being questioned – it’s about time women were made more generally aware of the choice they are making, the risks and the benefits of both vaginal and caesarean delivery options. It’s about time the information given to women about birth didn’t just come from the Natural Childbirth Industry.

What’s sad is that the comments sections in response to the stories are invariably filled with misogynistic, misinformed and misguided sentiments about this subject. People seem more than willing to make other peoples’ bodies, their business. I will happily concede that everyone is entitled to an opinion on a subject, however, the opinions expressed on this subject are generally far from well-informed and many demonstrate a tremendous lack of logic or understanding of the issue. Everyone is an armchair OBGYN. Of the 14 comments made on the story when I looked, 9 were negative – ranging from benign misunderstanding to utterly misogynistic. Here is a small selection of some of the less enlightened comments on this particular news story that I’ve read – I’ve copied them verbatim, so any spelling or grammar errors are not my own:

Golden Years:

“I don’t think they should be elective – but whatever, that’s your choice I guess. If you do “elect” to have on though, you can darn well pay for it on your own. Not on my dime!!!”

Steve Q:

“Quack quack.”


“Personally, my opinion. .. A vaginal birth is "natural" our bodies were designed to give birth. C sections are not natural, in some circumstances women need the help of a c section due to complications of child birth. I do not think its right to have a doctor pushing his ideas on women telling us childbirth vaginally is not safe- women have given birth forever . I have given birth 2x and I and my children are healthy and fine. Firstly- pregnancy ruins your bladder, and if your bladder is not drained before pushing a child out that can also ruin it. Get the facts people. I'm not against a c section- but it is also a major surgery. If its because complications with a natural birth- fine. If not, why would we do otherwise?”


“I personally would not want a section unless it was an emergency. Women that have a normal vaginal deliver are out of the hospital in a day or two. The women with sections are dragging their IV poles around the recovery is much longer.”


“I’m sure there’s a financial benefit...the health benefit...not sure that is a guarantee for either baby or mother.”


“Women have been having babies for thousands and thousands of years before modern medicine and we’re over 6 billions on the planet. I think the natural way works fine thank you very much!”


“And tell me again about those ballooning health care costs? What the heck- let’s take what’s normally a low-risk, relatively short and natural procedure involving no surgical intervention, and turn it into a major surgical procedure that requires women stay in hospital for multiple days.

Are their complications from natural childbirth? Yes. The advocates for c-sections suggest the complications from emergency c-sections should not be compared to natural childbirths. Equally, the complications of planned c-sections should be compared to natural childbirth, rather than simply talking about the latter.

Anyone who advocates for this is probably either going to make money off it by performing c-sections, or wants her own choices to be viewed as “natural”. C-section doesn’t form the basis for a “natural birth plan”, notwithstanding their book title.”


“Breaking News....Big pharma company promotes taking expensive pills for whatever ails ya’!”


“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Honestly, women and their partners today need to get a grip on reality. If you want a c-section for reasons other than an emergency, you should look into a surrogate.”

So what should women who are more informed on this subject do?

They should support those who are brave enough to put themselves out there and advocate for fully informed choice about birth options. They should work to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that are commonly held by also commenting on these stories. They should call out the stupidity, misogyny, and failure in logic for what it is. They should think critically about what is said, and question whether or not it is actually coming from somebody who knows what they are talking about. Lastly, they should talk with their own health care providers, they should review the legitimate evidence on the subject, and they should proudly make whatever decisions best serve their own needs and those of their children – and respect the decisions of others, even though they may be different from the ones they would make for themselves.

Respect is not just given, it is earned. So go out and earn it!

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