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Viewer: Learn more about cesarean births

EDITOR'S NOTE: At TODAYMoms, we like to hear your opinions. After a segment last week that featured a live birth we heard from a few of you who wanted to share your perspectives, including Amy Gates. Amy is a Colorado mother of two, who blogs about green living, attachment parenting, activism and life with an anxiety disorder at Crunchy Domestic Goddess. Below is Amy's guest post, it is important to note that the following represents her opinion and not of this blog.

As I watched TODAY's live cesarean section birth on Tuesday, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. For a show that was supposed to take us "Inside the OR" and presumably educate, other than doctors and nurses in scrubs and TODAY's Dr. Nancy Snyderman's play by play, there wasn't much footage that indicated a medical procedure was taking place. It was also difficult to watch the way mom was seemingly left out of most of the birth experience. Birth is an amazing thing no matter how it happens, but the way this piece was done seemed irreverent.

After the baby was born, Meredith Vieira asked Dr. Snyderman what percentage of deliveries these days are by c-section. Dr. Snyderman deferred to the doctor who was in the process of sewing up the mother's uterus, Dr. Goldberg, who responded, "It depends a little bit across the country, but it can range anywhere between 25% and about 30%." Actually, according to the most recent data available (from 2006), the United States' c-section rate was 31.1%, ranging from 21.5% in Utah all the way up to 37.4% in New Jersey. The World Health Organization actually recommends that the cesarean section rate should not be higher than 10% to 15%. When the rate is higher than 15% there is some research which shows it results in more harm than good.

At one point in the segment, Dr. Goldberg added that one reason for having a c-section is if the mom has had a c-section before. Then when asked if this mom gets pregnant again and has a “normal size” baby if she can have a vaginal delivery, Dr. Goldberg responded that she could "absolutely" have a vaginal delivery with a future pregnancy. So in theory the mother featured could have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), but according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center the VBAC rate is only 9.8%. I was unable to find out what the hospital's official policy is regarding VBACs (they didn't return my call), but many hospitals across the country are banning VBACs or doctors are refusing to perform them due to fears of lawsuits, which of course continues to drive up the c-section rate.

Later in the segment Dr. Snyderman said the Johnsons elected to have a c-section because babies “run big” in the parents’ families and Carrie was “past her due date.” Dr. Snyderman adds, “those are two indications that a cesarean section is a lot safer than having a vaginal delivery.” I couldn't find any information from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that a family history of large babies or being past the due date indicates that a c-section is "a lot safer" than a vaginal birth. I did not hear any mention of the many risks involved with c-sections for both the mothers and babies.

You can read more of Amy's writing at her blog. Thanks to Amy for taking the time to write for TODAYMoms.