Cesarean Awareness Month raises alarm on rising cesarean rates and maternal mortality
April marks Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM), an initiative of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), to raise awareness of the alarming rate of cesarean sections across the globe.
The 2023 CAM theme “You Have Options”, highlights the rights of birthing people to make informed decisions during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. This includes transferring care to providers that practice informed consent and exercising informed refusal for unwanted or unnecessary medical interventions.
“The COVID pandemic continues to have far-reaching effects on healthcare, including reducing access to evidence-based maternal healthcare such as access to the midwifery model of care and birth doulas that has been shown to reduce cesarean rates and improve outcomes,” said Briana Smith, President of ICAN. “The Cesarean Awareness Month theme reminds birthing people they have the power to change providers, give birth in their setting of choice, and challenge healthcare systems that are not providing quality care.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the cesarean delivery rate in 2021 increased to 32.1% in the United States. This is the second increase in a row after the rate had declined in 2018 and 2019. The cesarean delivery rate peaked in 2009 at 32.9%, after increasing every year since 1996.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Worldwide cesarean section rates have risen from around 7% in 1990 to 21% today; and are projected to continue increasing over the current decade.”
“At population level, caesarean section rates higher than 10% are not associated with reductions in maternal and newborn mortality rates,” as reported by the WHO.
Recently released CDC data shows maternal mortality in the United States rose by 40% in 2021. This is 10x higher than other high income countries like Australia. Countries with lower maternal mortality tend to have more midwives, lower c-section rates, and universal health care.
ICAN joins reproductive justice organizations in raising the alarm on racial disparities in maternal mortality and amplifies the theme of “Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy”, led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance during Black Maternal Health Week April 11-17, which coincides with CAM.
According to the CDC, “Non-Hispanic Black women continued to have the highest cesarean delivery rate (36.8%) in 2021.”
Since 1982, the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) has provided peer-support, advocacy, and education with the goal to prevent cesareans, support cesarean recovery, and improve access to Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). To learn more about ICAN and Cesarean Awareness Month visit www.ican-online.org.