C-Sections Are Booming In China Because Doctors Aren’t About To Wait Around For That Vaginal Birth

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c-sectionsYou don’t need to be able to recite the entire dialogue of The Business Of Being Born to know that c-sections have been the birth method du jour in the United States for quite the spell. Sure, home births have been on the rise in the United States, particularly with white women. But as some privileged American ladies are prepping that birthing pool — others are beginning to mimic our own c-section rate. Like China.

The Telegraph chatted with a midwife in Shanghai who is reportedly “well-known among the expatriate mums and mums-to-be.” In addition to speaking three languages, working in a top hospital, MK is of one of the richest family’s in China.

Data reveals that in 2007-2008, half of laboring Chinese women chose c-sections. But MK reminds us that “choice” can be a tricky word when it comes to women and doctors:

“Firstly it’s not always the women making this decision,” MK explains. She says that most OB-GYNs in China push C-section as the best option as it is quicker than vaginal birth and most of them work in very over-crowded public hospitals.

“You can do 10 or 12 C-sections in a day compared to perhaps two or three vaginal births. There is also a shortage of midwives in Chinese hospitals so natural deliveries are a problem.”

If it’s not doctors trying to keep that rotating door of patients going, then it’s the need to keep big families going out just as they’re coming in:

“Chinese families, including the extended family, like to be present at the birth. Sometimes there will be 10 or more of them waiting in the hospital. If most of the patients are having C-sections, every 30 minutes or so the nurse comes out and whole crowd of people disperse. If every woman is having a natural birth, imagine the chaos of people. The doctors prefer C-sections for all these reasons.”

Other reasons for the high c-section rates in China come down to the method simply being “a lower risk option” to superstitious mother-in-laws demanding certain birthdays. But MK maintains that for this new generation of mothers, who have been “protected” and “spoiled” under China’s one-child policy, pain is a not something that they’re willing to experience. Meaning that for the other half who do decide to deliver vaginally, an epidural is generally happening too.

And here I was hoping the silly “too posh to push” press-induced narrative was dead already.

(photo: Lim ChewHow / Shutterstock)


  1. BigBlue

    January 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    So ONE midwife gave an interview, and her word is the gospel? You do realize that there are more than a billion people in China, right?

  2. Zoe

    January 15, 2013 at 12:39 am

    The title says “doctors aren’t about to wait around” for vaginal births. That’s not accurate. The midwife clearly states that public hospitals are overcrowded and C-sections are far more practical for all concerned, even the mothers (less risk of being hampered by overcrowded hospitals with dozens of extended natural births, being able to be seen by the overworked midwives, being able to give birth on a certain day etc). The end of the article also surmises that many mothers are requesting this option rather than being forced into it by pushy doctors. The article’s title has very callous and impersonal connotations, and is very misleading.

  3. teena

    January 15, 2013 at 4:20 am

    Overcrowding is not something to overlook. C-sections might be major surgery, but they are faster, they do give doctors more control over the birthing process, and they make the process of giving birth more predictable. This is not nothing when a hospital is overcrowded.

    • BigBlue

      January 15, 2013 at 11:50 am

      I can’t remember where I saw it, but I just read about a woman who was sent to the waiting room in an overcrowded hospital because there were no beds available. She ended up giving birth there, and unfortunately the baby died because the cord was wrapped around his neck. So, agree with you 100% overcrowding is no small factor to be ignored. But I think the author of this post just wanted a chance to jump up on her “c-sections are bad!!” pedestal.

  4. Andrea

    January 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    This post drips with judgment, especially this line: ”
    Meaning that for the other half who do decide to deliver vaginally, an epidural is generally happening too.”
    Why is it your business whether Chinese women choose pain relief during labor?

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