NEWS

Caesarean explosion dents Greece’s child-centered image

Between 1983 and 1998, births by Caesarean section rose exponentially from 13 percent to 31 percent, according to research carried out by Chryssa Bakoula on 15,000 births. In part, this increase can be explained by the fact that first-time mothers over the age of 35 have increased in frequency. The percentage of Caesareans varies according to the mother’s origin, place of birth and type of hospital, with it being much higher for Greek women (33 percent) than for foreign women (24 percent). It is also higher in the cities of Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki (38 percent) than in the provinces (27 percent), and in large private obstetrics hospitals (39 percent) compared to the rest. Around half of all Caesarean births had been scheduled, accounting for 15.5 percent of all births. A previous Caesarean is the second reason for carrying out an operation, «although it flies against all rules of science,» said Nikolaos Matsaniotis in comments on the report’s findings. Many mothers-to-be did not want to submit to the pain of childbirth, «one more sign that we do not live in a child-centered society, since the dangers of Caesarean section are much greater for the baby.» Caesareans often take place to suit the doctor. «If, for example, labor begins at 11 o’clock at night and will probably last until morning, then there will in all probability be a Caesarean section. Caesareans actually drop at weekends and during holidays,» said Matsaniotis. But one in four Caesareans are due to an agreement between the mother and the doctor. «If the mother feels she can’t bear any more and the doctor does not insist on a natural childbirth, things turn out badly.» And he pointed out that natural childbirth, without medicines, is the procedure followed in only 6 percent of births. Mortality At the same time, Greece has the highest infant mortality rate in the European Union. But Matsaniotis pointed out the 6-percent figure for infant mortality was better than that found in most of the USA and even in Sweden 10 years ago. «At the peak of my career, that figure was 60 percent,» he said. «Of course, to seek something better is in the nature of human beings,» he added. Medical intervention in childbirth The fluctuating numbers of births by day and by week (not including scheduled Caesarean sections) demonstrate a clear tendency to intervene medically. Births rise during work hours (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and show a significant drop on Sundays. Despite an impressive reduction in mortality rates during childbirth, birth weight and length of pregnancies have shown negative trends since 1983. The percentage of babies born weighing less than 2.5 kilos has increased to 7.5 percent from 5 percent, while the percentage of babies born prematurely has increased to 10 percent from 7 percent. According to the report, the lower birth weight of neonates should be attributed to shorter pregnancy terms. It was discovered that scheduled Caesareans tended to take place earlier in the pregnancy than normal births. Thirty-one percent of scheduled Caesareans took place before 38 weeks into the pregnancy.