Believe it or not, in recent times, women have been bullied, coerced and outright forced against their wills to have caesarians. Many of these women had educated themselves thoroughly about labor and delivery and were trying to make informed decisions on what they thought best for their families.
Caesarians can be life-saving for both mother and baby. The procedure is a wonder of modern obstetrics. But, there are far too many cases when it turns into a matter of convenience for the doctor.
Many of these women are not dead-set against having C-sections, but they don't feel their wishes are heard by their physicians who often state, "It's time to do a C-section," without discussion.
Doctors perform C-sections for a myriad of reasons other than fetal distress. In some circles it's seen as impolite to leave a laboring woman for the next shift of doctors. Some doctors fear litigation and some actually just want to get to their tennis games or happy hours.
Read these stories and imagine what it's like to be a woman, trying to do the best she can for her family, have the hospital who's supposed help her, threaten to forcibly cut her open or call the authorities to arrest her.
13 Arrested And Strapped Down For Refusing A C-Section
Florida has a history of treading upon the rights of pregnant women; 1996 was no exception. When Laura Pemberton refused a C-section, she was arrested and her legs were strapped down. She was forced to go to the hospital for surgery, where her fetus was appointed a lawyer, but she was not.
Laura sued and was told in no uncertain terms by Florida's US district court, that her rights were outweighed by the state's interest in "preserving the life of an unborn child."
The "state" is not a medical expert, so it must rely on the hospital's testimony concerning danger to the fetus. A 2013 study showed doctors stand to make a few hundred dollars more for a C-section compared to vaginal delivery, and hospitals a few thousand dollars more.
12 Doctor Orders Cesarean So He Can Finish His Whiskey
Ivana Borges, of Brazil, planned a natural birth, but when she arrived at the hospital, the doctor began pressing her to have a C-section. On what grounds?
“He told me I wasn’t getting dilated enough,” Ivana says. “I said, ‘I can wait!’ Then he started joking that I couldn’t handle the pain.”
The doctor continued to pester her for the next six hours of her labor, until Ivana, 24 at the time, caved. Then during the actual surgery, Ivana heard him say he'd been at a birthday party. "I want this done fast because I want to go back and finish my whiskey," he said.
Sadly, in Brazil, this is all too common, where doctors can schedule and bill for up 8 procedures per day, instead of one or two natural births.
11 Woman Is Knocked Unconscious
In 2013, Alessandra Pacchieri, pregnant, travelled to Essex and had a panic attack. She reached out for help from British heath services and was taken to a psychiatric facility.
"They were just moving me from one room to another, while I was saying I wanted to go back to Italy," Alessandra says. She was then sedated, and when she awoke, she'd been given a Caesarian.
The local health trust had obtained a court order to perform the surgery without Alessandra's consent. Her lawyer, Stefano Oliva, stated, "[She] was perfectly cognisant. We are not speaking of a situation in which the baby...is at risk."
Alessandra engaged in a legal battle to regain custody of her daughter, but in 2014, her daughter was adopted; Alessandra will likely not see her until she turns 18.
10 Forced Cesarean Ends A Mom's Life
In 1987, Angela Carder was 26 weeks pregnant when her cancer, previously in remission, recurred and metastasized. A course of treatment was agreed upon, but when her condition worsened, George Washington University Hospital rushed to get a court-ordered C-section.
Angela herself, along with her husband, her parents and her cancer specialist were all against it and attempted, unsuccessfully, to get the order blocked. Sadly, during the surgery, both Angela and the baby died.
Afterward, Angela's family, with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project (RFP), convinced the court to take a stand against forced C-sections. Over 120 separate civil rights, medical and ethical groups supported the family's stance that "the court order had violated Carder's right to informed consent and her constitutional rights of privacy and bodily integrity."
9 Woman Loses Custody Of Her Fetus
In 2004, Amber Marlowe had given birth to six large babies and was in labor with the seventh - a predicted 13-pound whopper. The fetus was in no distress, but doctors told her the baby was too big, and she'd need a C-section.
When Amber refused, the hospital went to court, seeking legal guardianship of her unborn baby. The judge said the hospital could perform a C-section against her will, if it were "medically necessary."
Fortunately, Amber checked out of that hospital and found another, where she delivered vaginally, a healthy 11-pound baby girl.
"I couldn't believe the hospital would do something like that. It was scary and very shocking," says Amber. "All this just because I didn't want a C-section."
8 Doctors Use Threats To Get Their Way
Sarah Kowalski studied the overuse of C-sections for her undergraduate thesis. How did she end up with a C-section she didn't want?
Two doctors stood at the end of her hospital bed: "[They] threatened that if I didn't let them operate, the next doctor on shift would be rude and unkind to me. They even insinuated...that she would not do a good job on the surgery."
Sarah pushed back against the idea of surgery, but doctors threatened to withdraw treatment. Eventually, Sarah consented to a C-section.
In retrospect, Sarah thinks C-section was the best option, given her baby's large head, but the process still concerns her - the way she was bullied makes her wonder how many women could have natural birth if only allowed a little more time.
7 A Cesarean "With Or Without Her Consent"
In 2014, Jennifer Goodall, of Florida, was 41 weeks pregnant and terrified of entering the hospital. In response to her desire to attempt vaginal birth before consenting to a C-section, she received a letter from the Charlotte County hospital saying they would seek a court order to perform the surgery "with or without her consent."
When Jennifer began feeling contractions, she chose to labor at home until she could tell it wasn't progressing, at which point she went to the Cape Coral Health Center. "I welcomed my son into the world after laboring, consenting to surgery when it became apparent it was necessary," Jennifer says, "This was all I wanted to begin with."
Jennifer's case spawned protests from her supporters, several petitions and national attention.
6 Doctor Threatens To Call The Cops On His Patient
When Lisa Epsteen, of Florida, refused an immediate C-section for her fourth child, instead scheduling one for several days later, she received an email from Dr. Jerry Yankowitz: "I would hate to [have] law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in." She had gestational diabetes and an ultrasound had shown the fetus was in distress; he was concerned.
Lisa panicked and contacted the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, whose lawyer contacted Dr. Yankowitz, insisting he cease threatening Lisa.
Lisa had declined the immediate C-section, because her children would be without care. "There are any number of things that they could have done without threatening me," she says.
In this situation, an emergency C-section may have been the best course, but threatening a woman with arrest was obviously not.
5 Mom Never Consents To Her C-Section
Rinat Dray's doctor told her, "I just don't have all day for you." This was 2011 and Rinat's third child. She was attempting VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarian). Her labor was progressing normally, but she was still scared and struggling, because Dr. Leonid Gorelik of Staten Island University Hospital was refusing to examine her unless she consented to a C-section.
She begged Dr. Gorelik not to do the procedure and even considered running from the hospital. The good doctor performed a C-section not only without her consent, but in the face of her actually pleading NOT to have one.
Rinat's fears were well-founded. Her bladder was perforated during the surgery. This complication and, more importantly the complete lack of consent, are the basis for her lawsuit against Dr. Gorelik and the hospital.
4 Mom Gets Bullied By Her Physician
In 2010, when Lindsay Switzer went into labor with her second child, the doctor proclaimed the baby might be too big to be born naturally, even though Lindsay's first had been under six pounds. Lindsay says, "she asked how long I pushed [with my first], and when I said two hours...she became unhinged...I think she just didn’t want to wait two hours."
After much pressuring, eventually Lindsay was presented with a form: "She told me it said...'I don’t care if my baby’s brain damaged or dead'...I had an oxygen mask in my hand and an open IV line, and I thought they were just going to knock me out. So I signed it," says Lindsay. She is now suing the doctor.
Lindsay says, "It’s not the surgery that affected my life. It’s the blatant disregard for my humanity and my ability to make decisions for myself and for my kids."
3 Forced To Travel To Avoid Caesarian
Fiona Bailey is among many women who've felt bullied into having c-sections at Emerald Hospital in Australia. She was told, weeks before her due date, she could not have natural delivery, due to her previous two C-sections.
They told her she'd have to travel to proceed with her planned natural birth. "It would've meant spending Christmas Day in a hotel room somewhere away from family, away from my friends just waiting to have a baby," Fiona says.
Part of this may be due to a lack of specialists for high-risk pregnancies in rural areas, but many of the women feel belittled and bullied by the local medical facility. Rural Doctors' Association president Ewan McPhee says recruiting in rural areas is tough, but he agrees women should not be made to suffer.
2 Physician Gets Birth Weight Totally Wrong
When an ultrasound suggested Katie Clemens's baby would weigh 11.5 pounds, her doctor insisted they schedule a C-section, and she relented. Baby Sam, though, ended up weighing only 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Katie now believes the surgery was unnecessary and may have caused her son's breathing problems (a common issue for C-section babies).
Katie says, "I was bullied into the C-section. They were telling me my baby would have permanent nerve damage and would never be able to dance or throw a ball because I had a fantasy of what a birth is like...I felt like I had really very little choice.”
The medical guideline, even if her baby had been over 11 pounds is to "offer" C-section, not badger the patient into it.
1 Mom Fights Back
In 2010, Michelle Mitchell's doctor, Mark Brooks, pressured her to have a Caesarian, due to her baby's suspected large size. Though no fetal distress was detected, she was threatened with a court order and child protective services. After hours of bullying and out of fear, she caved and had the surgery.
Michelle sued Dr. Brooks, claiming the surgery was assault, since her "consent" was acquired under duress. Hers was the first claim of its kind to make it to court. Unfortunately, the court found in favor of the doctor.
Michelle has this to say: "It has been a victory just to have made it this far...This case has helped bring to light the very troublesome and overlooked problem of women being threatened and coerced during childbirth...I will not be giving up the fight."
Sources: TheDailyBeast.com, Yahoo.com, AdvocatesForPregnantWomen.org, ACLU.org, The Guardian.com, Rewire.news, USAToday.com, YourTango.com, Jezebel.com, NYTimes.com, ABC.net.au, NPR.org, Daily Mail.co.uk