Giving Women an Option
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
By Karen Flowers, Country Leader, Egypt
In Egypt the C-Section rate has reached the highest in the world at 80%. The Minister of Health, Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, stated on a local talk show that “both families and doctors in Egypt prefer C-Section deliveries over natural deliveries to save time, although C-Section delivery has a negative impact on women and babies due to the lack of awareness of mothers and doctors.”
Seven years ago, the Lydia Project became Birth Guardians of Egypt, with the goal of changing the birth culture. Here, doctors schedule their patients’ deliveries on a 9-5:00 workday and medical students are taught that surgical birth is safer than natural, unmedicated ones. We work with uninformed families who assume doctors prioritize their best interests as well as cosmopolitan couples who want to schedule their baby’s birth on their “grandmother’s birthday” or some other designer date.
It is important to note that both midwifery and home births are banned in Egypt, although midwives do exist in more rural regions. These midwives are not allowed to perform even the simplest medical tasks though, so when complications arise they become medical emergencies. This means most doctors never see unassisted, uncomplicated births; they only witness complicated emergencies, which confirms their belief that all births are medical events requiring professional intervention.
The medical community in Egypt is growing more open to looking at the importance of reducing the high rate of C-sections, and at Birth Guardians, we are promoting education on natural childbirth options. Sixteen new doulas have been trained and are currently working on their credentials to become certified as Birth Guardian Doulas and Childbirth Educators. Once certified, they will be able to provide women with psychological and emotional support during pregnancy and, for those who want it, assistance with a natural birth.
The challenge is finding doctors who support natural childbirth. This is a systemic issue because doctors are only practicing what they have been taught in medical school, and many graduate without ever having witnessed a natural birth.
But change is happening in our little corner of Egypt. Mothers are becoming educated, making informed choices about how they want to give birth and learning how to find doctors who will support them if they choose natural birth. In 2022, at least one or two medical doctors attended each of our Birth Guardian Training Courses, so a class was tailored for doctors and residents to train them in “what happens when everything goes right.” In most of these classes, at least one doctor talks about how she wants a “do-over” and says, “I want to have another baby just so I can put these teachings into practice.”
Working to reduce C-section rates in Egypt is a challenge. But it is one we are taking on, changing the birth culture one baby at a time.