Cesarean Births in Switzerland (2011)

According to the Swiss Federal Statistics Office, the cesarean birth rate in 2011 was 33,3%.   In Geneva & Vaud, the rate was in line with the federal average, though in 29 of 92 MedStat regions, the rate was actually higher, ranging from 34-50%.

What does this mean?  This means that in Geneva and Vaud, out of every three women, at least one (if not more) will give birth surgically (either scheduled, unscheduled, or emergency c-section).  So for an average coffee morning with 15 mothers in attendance, at least 5 of them will have given birth by c-section.   If that coffee morning is attended by families from Chailly, Bussigny, Lutry, St. Prex, Pied-du-Jura, Bonmont, Promenthouse, Terre-Sainte, Puidoux, Cully, Venoge, or Cologny, it’s a few more.

For a straightforward healthy pregnancy, vaginal birth remains the SAFEST for both mother and baby.  In fact, research shows that when rates exceed 15% the neonatal and maternal outcomes decline (i.e. they result in higher maternal and perinatal death and morbidity rates).  So the trend to increasing cesarean births is worrisome to most.

So what can a mother-to-be do to increase her chances of a vaginal birth?   

  • Take care of herself and be an active participant in her care;
  • Consult a few healthcare providers (midwife, family-doctor, gynecologist or OB/GYN) and ask the questions that are most important to her and “hire” the practitioner that she feels most comfortable with (or feels most affinity with) and that gives her answers that are closest to her desires;
  • If she has a healthy pregnancy, consider a practitioner that practices the midwifery-model (rather than technocratic or medical model) of care;
  • Consider all the options for where she wants to give birth (home, birth house or center, hospital, clinic).  For hospital/clinic births, take their c-section rate into consideration (the highest rates of cesarean births are in private clinics, whose rates are often higher than those of hospitals who treat high risk pregnancies);
  • Educate herself, ask questions, make informed decisions;
  • Take an antenatal class that is in line with her birth philosophy;
  • Hire a private childbirth educator for private stand-alone classes or to complement an antenatal class taken elsewhere;
  • Hire a doula;
  • etc.

What can a partner/father do to increase the chances of a vaginal birth?  Participate, Participate, Participate!

Options before the birth include:

  • Help his partner/wife find a healthcare provider (midwife, family-doctor, gynecologist or OB/GYN);
  • Attend antenatal check-ups with his partner/wife;
  • Attend childbirth classes or private childbirth educator consultations with his partner/wife;
  • Read literature targeted to fathers & which are supportive of natural birth (e.g. The Birth Partner, Dad’s Playbook to Labour & Birth, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way);
  • Hire a doula to support HIM so that he can support his spouse/partner to the best of his abilities;
  • Support his spouse/partner’s wishes and talk in positives;
  • Participate in decision-making, whilst ultimately remembering his role is to support/protect his wife/partner (she is the one giving birth);
  • Act as a protector: protect his partner’s wishes, protect her from negativity, protect her from family preferences if they are different from her wishes, etc.;

Options during labour & birth include:

  • Trust his spouse/partner’s body’s ability to give birth
  • Praise his spouse/partner, tell her he loves her & the baby (ies)
  • Take responsibility for tasks (e,g, fill bath or rented labour/birth pool, organise ice/heat packs, take care of older children, prepare food/snacks, etc.)
  • Help his spouse/partner decide when it’s time to call their midwife or go in to their chosen birthing place (if not at home)
  • Participate in decision-making, whilst ultimately remembering his role is to support/protect his wife/partner (she is the one giving birth);
  • Act as a protector: protect his partner’s wishes, protect her from distractions & negativity, etc.
  • Talk to his partner in between contractions (not during!) and protect her from conversation from others during these times
  • Even if his partner/spouse has said she wants an epidural and even if he thinks she ‘needs’ it, he should not offer her pharmaceutical pain relief  (she will ask if she feels she needs it), instead he should praise her, tell her her he loves her, etc. (as above)
  • If his partner asks for an epidural, continue to offer physical and emotional support once the decision has been made, until and while the anaesthesiologist is there, and after it is in place;
  • If his partner is labouring with an epidural, the contractions will be dulled but her mind will still be alive, so he can continue to offer support and attention.   In addition, he can take responsibility for ensuring she keeps changing positions, stays comfortable (massage?), and continues to feel like the focus of attention (talk to her and ask how she’s feeling, ask her what would help, etc.)
  • Once baby is born protect mother AND baby, i.e. the motherbaby dyad.

If you’d like additional tips/tricks, talk to an independent midwife, doula or private childbirth educator.

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Would you like to read more about the 2011 statistical report?  Consult these press articles:

 SwissInfo coverage

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