Will a New Law Lower the Number of C-Sections in Brazil?
Brazil’s new c-section law may cut back on the number of women getting caesareans in Brazil. Currently, there is, as one article put it, an “epidemic of caesareans.” More than eight out of ten births handled by private health care providers in Brazil are c-sections. Compare that to the 40% of total births in Brazilian hospitals and the roughly 32% of births in the United States that are c-sections. Those figures are all higher than the World Health Organization’s suggestion of no more than 15% of births being c-sections.
The new law requires health insurance companies to provide information about the percentage of c-sections performed by specific doctors as well as specific hospitals. Health insurance companies have 15 days to provide this information or they will be fined. Health Minister Arthur Chioro said: “The epidemic of caesareans we see today in this country is unacceptable and there is no other way to treat it than as a public health problem. What’s normal are normal births.”
The number of caesareans would not be a problem if c-sections were not also associated with health risks. A c-section triples a mother’s risk of dying during childbirth and increases the risk of respiratory illness for the infant by 120%. Those are some pretty big risks to both the mother and the baby.
Some may wonder why c-sections are used so often in Brazil if the risks are so high. First, they are more convenient for the doctor. A c-section can be scheduled and planned ahead based on the doctor’s schedule, while a traditional birth happens when the baby is ready to come. Also, c-sections are seen as more comfortable and less damaging to the woman’s body.
An article published last year also talked about how c-sections are often viewed as a social issue. Poorer women have more vaginal births, while wealthier women have more c-sections. Dr. Simone Diniz, associate professor in the department of maternal and child health at the University of São Paulo, said that childbirth is seen as “primitive, ugly, nasty, [and] inconvenient,” while c-sections are viewed as “modern and elegant.” If nothing else, c-sections have become a status symbol in Brazil.
Now, with insurance companies being required to report c-section statistics, perhaps Brazilian society will change its views about caesareans. The new law for reporting these statistics will go into effect in six months.