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Trend toward intervention in childbirth

October 19, 2006

Increasing trend toward intervention in childbirth is socially driven– says university lecturer

New Zealanders should be concerned by society supporting a culture of intervention at birth, an Auckland university lecturer said today.

As with every country in the western world intervention rates in New Zealand are rising, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) lecturer Judith McAra-Couper said at the New Zealand College of Midwives conference in Christchurch today.

``It would appear that for some women their everyday world increasingly supports a culture of intervention which can be seen in the rising intervention rates.

``Intervention rates which have seen Caesarean sections go from 11.7 percent in 1988 to 23.1 percent in 2003, epidural rates from 15 percent in 1995 to 24.2 percent and induction rates from 7.0 in 1988 to 19.7 percent in 2003. While these rates are significantly less than Australia’s or America’s they are still unacceptable. Social pressure is often the driver of these rates” she said

``I worked in Bangladesh whereby it was possible for the husband to debate whether it is cheaper for him to take his wife to the hospital five hours away for an urgently needed caesarean section or to get a new wife while the woman listens and silently cries.

``The everyday experience in New Zealand informs a process whereby a woman chooses an elective caesarean section because it is perceived as less fearful, it offers an option of ease, convenience, avoids the messiness of birth and fits in with other commitments in her life. It ignores the serious nature of unnecessary abdominal surgery.

``I would argue that there is a correlation between these everyday worlds.

``Whether the woman be in Bangladesh or New Zealand, choice or lack of choice are a result of the society they live in, the processes of socialisation and the understanding they gain about themselves from their everyday world.’’

Ms McAra-Couper trained as a midwife in Auckland in 1989 for the express purpose of working in Bangladesh.

She spent many years in Bangladesh where the Bengali people.

``Their lives touched me deeply and in terms of midwifery I experienced much that was challenging, tragic and amazing. In contrast New Zealand women are sometimes unaware of the high level of care and choice they have in their maternity options even when compared to other similar countries to NZ.

The contribution of midwives in nearly 57,000 successful midwife-attended or assisted births in New Zealand a year reveals the vital role of midwives, she said.


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