Friday, June 21, 2013

A Cesarean by any other name

There seems to be some confusion when cesareans are discussed, with elective cesareans often being confused as all being maternal request or patient choice cesareans. While the vast majority of maternal request or patient choice cesarean are elective, not all elective cesareans are patient choice or maternal request cesareans and the vast majority of elective cesareans have clear medical indications for being performed. The term "elective" simply means that the procedure was scheduled in advance - and given that maternal choice cesareans account for maybe 2 percent of all deliveries - it is very likely that the elective cesarean in question had a medical indication for being performed (breech, big baby (macrocosmic), etc.).

Maternal request or patient choice cesareans are those that are performed because the mother has decided that she prefers cesarean delivery over an attempt to deliver vaginally. And for some reason, many people get all hot and bothered when a woman who potentially could deliver vaginally chooses not to. It is almost as though they see a woman making a choice that is different from the one that they would make as being some kind of criticism of the choice they would make. It is very similar to those who are up in arms about a man or a woman's right to marry a partner of the same sex - even though giving a person the right to marry who they want to has absolutely no impact on their own ability to marry who they want to.

To be fair the terminology in discussing maternal request and patient choice cesareans does leave a little to be desired. I find request to be a really weak word - it paints the woman as almost having to "beg" for the treatment of choice. Similarly I find the word demand - as in "patient demanded cesarean delivery" to be really aggressive. I have come to prefer "patient choice cesarean delivery", but even that seems to negate the very real need for a cesarean delivery to occur once a patient has decided that it is her preferred mode of delivery. After all, we do not call patient chosen cancer treatment, patient choice chemo or patient choice radiotherapy. That being said, I am not sure what better terminology could be used.

Regardless, patient choice cesareans are not worthy of the disdain they seem to attract - particularly from those with absolutely no medical training.

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