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Our View: Obstetricians should be held to higher standards of care

c section
During Covid the number of C-section deliveries spiked, contrary to WHO recommendations

THE issue of C-sections in Cyprus reared its head again recently during a discussion at the House and on every occasion, it seems the number of women opting for this method of giving birth has risen.

The latest figure is seven in ten births in Gesy hospitals being C-sections, from close to six in ten the last time it was brought up, making Cyprus one of the world leaders, yet again for something negative. The WHO recommends that C-sections be kept at a level of 15 per cent. We are far from that figure.

While a testament to the quality of medical care in Cyprus, that the vast majority of babies are born successfully by C-section, there is a general tendency not to look at the bigger picture.
In many cases C-sections are safer for women with health conditions or those giving birth to twins but this is not the reason for the high number of C-sections being performed in Cyprus, as statistics would not bear out the need for seven in ten babies to come into the world in this manner.

Study after study in recent years shows that vaginal births are better for babies. So what we are seeing in Cyprus is either a baffling ignorance on the part of doctors or a carelessness about what happens to these infants later in life. There is no excuse for obstetricians not to be up to speed on these studies and practice their profession accordingly.

Of course, ultimately, it is up to the mother to decide in which manner she wishes to give birth but it is up to the doctor to fully inform her of the implications. Maybe the perceived safety and convenience of a C-section for both parties outweighs everything: guarding doctors from litigation, and resulting in more money changing hands, as surgical operations require longer follow-up and clinic stays.

More and more information is coming out about how important it is for babies to make their way into the world the way that nature designed where there is no impediment to this. The largest study ever done and published in 2019, according to the BBC, showed that babies born by C-sections have dramatically different gut bacteria. Gut bacteria are considered a ‘thermostat’ for the immune system and newborns pick up their mother’s immunity when they travel through the birth canal, which protects them until they develop their own.

C-section babies on the other hand had high levels of hospital bugs because this was what they were exposed to in the first moments of life, giving them a greater risk of developing childhood asthma, obesity and type 2 diabetes as children and as adults.

Surely it should be part of a doctor’s duty of care to know these things and diligently pass information on to expectant parents who might very well make a different choice for the future good of their children.

Authorities are not doing enough in the way of holding obstetricians to higher standards of care for women and infants. Why are we “cherry-picking” advice from the WHO–which during Covid was regarded as the final authority on public health policy?

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