C-Section Stigma Is Contributing to Maternal Mortality

Illustration for article titled C-Section Stigma Is Contributing to Maternal Mortality
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While the rate of C-sections occurring across the world is increasing (a 2018 study found that they’ve increased from 6 percent of all births to 21 percent since 1990), in Nigeria women frequently decline the procedure because it’s often stigmatized. C-sections are often judged in opposition to “natural” vaginal births, but in Nigeria women face the added element of religious stigma in which vaginal delivery is tied to one’s womanhood and strength of religious faith.


The BBC reports that Nigeria has the world’s fourth-highest maternal mortality rate. In part, that’s because there’s one doctor for every 6,000 people and high costs can keep women from giving birth in hospitals. But also a low Caesarean birth rate, at just 2%, means that women who for medical safety should deliver via C-section are instead giving birth vaginally. (The World Health Organization says that a country’s Caesarean birth rate shouldn’t fall below 5%.)

One of the reasons the C-section rate is so low in Nigeria is because of the strong but common stigma associated with the surgery, in which it’s seen as inferior to giving birth vaginally. A Nigerian non-profit called Mamalette assigns mentors with women giving birth to promote preventative care and the information about c-sections hospitals lack, in the hopes that women don’t refuse to have them when they’re medically necessary.

But the maternal mortality rate is ultimately on the hospitals, not on these individual women. Problems with hemorrhaging and anesthesia can increase fatal C-sections in sub-Saharan Africa countries and 58% of births in rural Nigeria are delivered by unskilled attendants, the BBC reports.

Pop Culture Reporter, Jezebel


As someone who had a C section, this stigma does not just exist in Nigeria. My Dr told me there was about a 25% chance of cord prolapse due to how my daughter was positioned and my weird (she said this in a nice way) pelvis. I was fine with this. We scheduled my C section at 37 weeks for 39 weeks because they didn’t want me going into labor. When I let people at work know I now had a hard date for my maternity leave to start ( I was going to work as long as I could to maximize time with the baby) one admin continued to insist that I could deliver vaginally because “doctors don’t know everything” like I was going to give her feelings more weight than the opinion of the trained medical professionals ( This was kicked off by the ultrasound tech calling in my midwife who called in my OB) who have seen my insides. She also asked me if was going to try a VBAC for my next one and was appalled when I told her that after the C section my doctor told me based on what she saw/felt I would probably need a C section for any subsequent pregnancies as well. So many people have told me they are sorry I had to have a c section. I am totally fine with it but other people are not.