Across the US, the number of women who are vulnerable to high-risk deliveries is rising, however doctors’ rarely warn patients of the potential for serious injuries and complications in vaginal birth, according to a report by Kiera Butler for Mother Jones. Women have a right to make informed decisions about their bodies and serious medical situations; however, when it comes to birth, doctors simply are not providing vital information. Though laws in many states require doctors to inform women of the potential complications and dangers of both caesarian sections and medically assisted delivery, encouraging them to have a “natural” (vaginal) childbirth to avoid serious harm. However, when it comes to the risks of vaginal birth, doctors are mysteriously silent.
This is a big problem for millions of women, as according to a 2008 study by researchers at the California HMO Kaiser Permanente, 80% of women who suffer from pelvic floor disorders are women who delivered vaginally. According to Butler’s Mother Jones report, numerous other studies suggest that “50 to 80 percent of women who give birth experience tearing of the pelvic skin and muscles” and, for more than one in ten women, these injuries are severe enough to cause prolapse—a chronic and painful condition of the uterus that often requires multiple surgeries to repair— broken pelvic bones, sexual dysfunction, and lifelong incontinence.
Beyond pain and embarrassment, the financial costs of these preventable conditions are also great. According to the Healthcare Bluebook, “the typical price for a vaginal hysterectomy, one of the most common fixes for uterine prolapse, is about $14,400, including hospital costs, while a bladder repair surgery for incontinence runs about $28,000.” For those who opt not to have surgery, adult incontinence products can be an equally large strain on the wallet. And companies are cashing in; in fact, Mother Jones reports that the industry is “projected to grow from $1.8 billion in 2015 to $2.7 billion by 2020, and it is expected to catch up to the baby diaper market within a decade.”
The issue, covered thoroughly in Mother Jones and in a subsequent interview with Kiera Butler on The Longest Shortest Time Podcast, has been largely ignored by the corporate media as of January 2017. In 2012, Motherlode, a parenting blog connected with the New York Times published “An Unspoken Risk of Vaginal Birth”, and even this piece points out that mainstream publications often underestimate the number of women who are affected by serious injuries sustained during vaginal childbirth, omitting critical information about the chronic nature of these injuries.
Kiera Butler, “The Scary Truth About Childbirth,” Mother Jones, January/February, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/childbirth-injuries-prolapse-cesarean-section-natural-childbirth.
“Risky Birth-ness,” The Longest, Shortest Time, episode #110, January 25, 2017, http://longestshortesttime.com/episode-110-risky-birth-ness/.
Student Researcher: Hope Matheson (North Central College)
Faculty Researcher: Steve Macek (North Central College)