Caesarean section rates are significantly higher in Egypt than other parts of the world, with some doctors accused of deliberately steering expectant mothers to choose this for their own convenience – and as a way of making money.
“The doctor chose C-section not to interrupt his annual leave,” Mai Shami told the BBC, referring to the experience of a mother from her group. The doctor to whom she was referring allegedly decided to deliver the baby at a time which worked for him, rather than let it happen naturally.
A Caesarean section is when a baby is delivered by making a surgical cut in the abdomen and womb. They can be:
elective or planned – at the mother’s request or for medical reasons, such as the baby is either in the wrong position or very large
emergency – usually because of complications during labour
A year ago, Mai launched a Facebook initiative called Stop Medically Unjustified Caesarean Section, which is followed by more than 12,000 people around the Arab world.
The initiative was a fruit of her personal experience of giving birth two years ago.
“Doctors were pushing me towards Caesarean section as if it were the only, best and most appropriate way to give birth,” she said.
“During pregnancy, I visited more than one doctor and most of the time they pushed me towards Caesarean section for reasons, some of which are male-motivated, as they said a normal delivery may affect a woman’s sexual relationship after birth.”
Although evidence for this claim is inconsistent, obstetricians and gynaecologists who spoke to said this claim is often used by doctors to encourage more women to opt for a C-section.
One doctor that Mai visited gave a different reason for C-section, telling her it was “quicker, easier and less painful than a normal delivery”.
Some doctors were making money by encouraging women to have C-section as the procedure was more expensive than natural birth, Dr Randa Fakhreddin, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Cairo, told .
Doctors can also perform more than one C-section in a day, whereas natural births can potentially take hours.
According to the Egyptian Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, privately-owned hospitals where C-sections are carried out make more profit from them than natural deliveries, as the fees are much higher.
This could explain why C-sections account for 80% of births in these hospitals, while C-sections account for only 40% of all births in state-owned hospitals.
Mai insisted on giving birth naturally after spending a lot of time reading about the advantages and disadvantages of both methods of birth, and making sure she did not need a C-section for any medical reasons.
This choice was supported by the doctor who treated her in the final stages of delivery.