ICAN Responds to Maternal Request Cesarean Statement by NIH

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The largest grassroots consumer group championing maternal-child health responds to today's statement by the National Insitutes of Health regarding Maternal Request Cesareans. The Internation Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) cautions against opening the door to more unnecessary cesarean surgeries that will cause additional poor outcomes in otherwise healthy mothers and babies and will take a toll on an already overburdened medical system.

ICAN is concerned about the potential health consequences for mothers and babies as a result of today’s statement from the National Institutes of Health regarding so-called maternal request cesareans. The statement discusses the many risks associated with cesarean surgery, but it fails to adequately discourage the medical community and patients from casual use of major surgery.

The United States already lags far behind other industrialized countries in maternal-child health outcomes. Opening the door to more unnecessary cesarean surgeries will cause additional poor outcomes in otherwise healthy mothers and babies and will take a toll on an already overburdened medical system. A new report by the World Health Organization published in the Lancet identifies complications from cesarean surgery and anesthesia as the leading causes of maternal death in developed countries, including the United States.

The NIH statement discusses the importance of informed consent for mothers considering elective cesarean surgery. Yet, in our contacts with women around the country and from speakers at the NIH conference, we have learned that women’s care providers routinely fail to inform them of all the risks involved in various medical interventions. We are doubtful that informed consent will be implemented any better in the context of elective cesarean.

ICAN is also concerned about the disingenuousness of the medical community championing “patient choice” in the context of elective cesarean surgery, but coercing repeat cesareans among women who want vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). More than 300 hospitals across the United States have banned VBAC and countless providers refuse to accept patients who want VBAC, despite medical literature showing it to be a reasonable option for women. The NIH statement fails to recognize the limited availability of VBAC for many women who are forced into repeat cesareans that are subsequently identified as maternal request.

ICAN will continue its work to educate women about the risks and benefits of cesarean surgery and vaginal birth, and on ways to ensure healthy outcomes for both mother and baby. Ultimately, it is up to each mother to choose the best and safest route of delivery for herself and her child.

To schedule an interview regarding this topic or to receive additional information, please contact ICAN Communications Director Berna Diehl at 703-966-3602 or ICAN President Tonya Jamois at 760-744-5260.


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