Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Birth Reform Alliance calls for natural birth options

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The majority of mothers in Taiwan are given unnecessary medical treatment when they give birth, a natural-birth advocacy group said yesterday.

The Birth Reform Alliance yesterday called for procedures considered routine in this country to be used sparingly and recommended more widespread use of midwives and natural pre-natal care.

"We have a problem in this country; all women are being treated as high-risk patients as standard procedure," Kuo Su-chen (郭素珍), associate professor of midwifery at the National Taipei College of Nursing, said at a press conference held on the eve of Mother's Day.

"There's little choice available for women who want a more natural birth," she said.

A Bureau of Health Promotion survey cited by the group indicated that 93 percent of women undergo episiotomies, a surgery that enlarges the vagina by cutting into the perineum, the area between vagina and the anus.

The procedure is only necessary for a small number of women, Kuo said.

"In the United States only about 30 percent of women undergo episiotomies. In some northern European countries the percentage is even lower," she said. "It is not something that is necessary or desirable for most women."

Other examples of excessive medical interference cited by the group included the overuse of pain medication and caesarean sections.

The group is calling for midwives to be present at hospitals, saying that pregnant women should be offered the option of giving birth naturally.

Gynecologists defend their medical practices as better for the women and say that they respect their patients' preferences.

Shih Kwan-shih (石光興) of the Cheng Hsin Rehabilitation Medical Center said that 95 percent of his patients underwent episiotomies.

"The perineum is going to tear if we do not cut it," Shih said. "Cutting it ensures it is not going to be an irregular tear."

"If the woman does not want it done, I do not do it," he said. "It just means more suturing for me afterwards."

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