COLUMBIA — Columbia is one of more than 100 cities that will host a rally on Labor Day to draw attention to what organizers say is the excessive number of cesarean sections in the U.S.
The U.S. cesarean section rate increased by 50 percent from 1996 to 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. maternal mortality rate increased 96 percent between 1990 and 2008, from 12 to 24 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the World Health Organization. The United States ranked 47th of 183 countries for maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Although about 5 percent of births do require a cesarean section for health reasons, the procedure can cause problems down the road, said Carrie Hummel, co-coordinator for the Labor Day event in Columbia, dubbed Rally for Change.
Rally for Change — in its second year — is put on by ImprovingBirth.org, an organization that promotes "evidence-based maternity care." The group's objectives include:
- Reducing the maternal mortality rate in the U.S.
- Reducing unnecessary birth inductions
- Raising awareness about birth options, including the use of midwives
- Increasing the use of "physiological" childbirth methods, that is, "allowing women to go into labor on their own and intervening only when medically indicated," Hummel said.
Missouri is one of 11 states that does not publish cesarean section rates by hospital, and neither Boone Hospital Center or MU's Women's and Children's Hospital was able to provide those numbers.
But the cesarean section rate at Boone Hospital Center is generally the same as or below state and national averages, in spite of the high number of at-risk and multiple births, communications coordinator Shannon Whitney said.
The Boone Family Birthplace, the hospital's maternity unit, strives to guide more women toward a safe, vaginal delivery, Whitney said. The hospital is also focusing on reducing inductions before a 39 week gestation period. Most women give birth around 39 to 40 weeks of gestation, according to Planned Parenthood.
Randall Floyd, director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine services at MU's School of Medicine, noted that as a major surgery, cesarean sections do have risks. "They are particularly stressful situations," he said.
"I think it's very commonly accepted knowledge across the country that there has been a slow increase in the rate of cesarean sections over the past two decades, " Floyd said, "People do not want to take a chance on the baby sustaining a birth injury."
He also said that he sees many patients whose babies are "already compromised and who will not tolerate a vaginal delivery."
The point is for a woman to feel more supported and empowered about giving birth, regardless of what choice she makes. And that will lead to a better outcome, said Megan Oberg, co-coordinator of Rally for Change.
"This is not a protest," Hummel said of the rally. "This is about bringing the people into the conversation, increasing education and awareness."
The organization held a Labor Day rally last year in San Diego. This year, over 100 cities in all 50 states plan to hold rallies.
"This is a universal issue," Oberg said, "It amazes me the range of people that are interested."
About 50 people are expected to participate in the rally, which will be held at the Stephens Lake Park at the corner of Broadway and Old 63 from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 3.
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