You may have read about the "First baby born on Twitter" (which is, of course, debatable). The first C-section --- perhaps. But not the first homebirth. Or unassisted birth.
But let's talk about this Twittered cesarean, shall we?
Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, TX has been advertising their live broadcast of a C-section birth on Twitter & their website, and encouraging people to sign up for an "event reminder" and to "tune in" with varied sensationalized exclamations:
"C-Section Live on Twitter!"
" A look inside 2nd most common surgery in the US!"
" Watch a surgical birth live on Twitter."
They even have their own hashtag.
Now, mothers (and parents) should be able to make fully informed choices about their own births and should be able to birth in whatever way - and wherever (even on live Twittervision) - they feel most safe. My issue is more with the hospitals' choice to make a "reality show" out of a surgery, broadcast it on social media, and call it "educational" in the midst of a cesarean section epidemic in this country. The World Health Organization suggests that the C-section rate should not rise about 15% in developed nations, yet, in 2009, 32.9% of all births in the US were cesarean deliveries (compared with 20.7% in 1996 and 5% in 1970). The rate of C-section in this country is increasing to alarming numbers - in New Jersey, my homestate for example - the rate was 39.4% in 2009 (and NJ is not alone in this), choice in birthing options is becoming less, and this hospital's Twitter account is flaunting the stat of "1 in 3 moms" having C-sections almost as celebratory.
Now, in fairness, Memorial Hermann has indicated on their twitter feed that,
"We'll explain that C-section is associated with risks & should only be done if necessary."
I am pleased to hear this, but doubtful; given that they also say:
"This is a medically indicated C-section. 39-year-old mom previously had an urgent C-section and chose not to attempt VBAC."
Unless there are other factors we're not privy to, simply having a previous C-section does not make a repeat C-section necessary. Coupled with the following bizarre quote makes me even less than confident that the risks of cesarean sections will fully be explained:
"Join us as we pull back the curtain w/live play-by-play."
Excuse, me? Is this a baseball game?
Cesarean sections are major abdominal surgeries. They are an unnatural state of birth for both mother and baby. They can interfere with bonding, healing, breastfeeding, introduction of healthy bacteria (from not passing through the vaginal canal), and breathing (from baby's lungs not being appropriately squeezed through the vaginal canal). They increase the risk of infection and scarring to mother, and injury to baby. Recovery can be hard. It's not a spectator sport.
I'm in full support of increasing the information to mothers about the choices and options available in birth - from unassisted birth to homebirth to birth with a midwife, doula, doctors, with and without medications, to vaginal birth, to surgical birth. Birth is one of the most amazing and powerful events in a woman's life; and she should always be able to make the choice to birth in the way she wants. But without KNOWING all of the risks and benefits and truths of different birth options, mothers can't make fully informed choices. So when @HoustonHospital says,
"Our goal is to educate."
I'm glad. Education is important and powerful. But can a repeat C-section taking place because a VBAC wasn't chosen, aired and advertised like a sporting event truly be an appropriate or likely venue for educating about cesarean birth?
I am hopeful that the real risks of cesarean-as-normalized-birth will be discussed, that the potential emotional trauma to mother, and challenges to breastfeeding and recovery will be illuminated so that women really CAN make fully informed, educated choices. But, when a birth is advertised as a "HEY! COME CHECK IT OUT!" reality show; it leaves me dubious. It really remains to be seen whether the intent to educate will actually play out. There's a lot of responsibility wrapped up in this "show".
So, what do you think? Is airing a C-section live going to help educate women about birth? Will it help reduce the rate of C-sections in our country, or will it instead help make C-sections more "normal"? Will you be tuning in?