RIO DE JANEIRO: Thais Faria sank into a leather love seat, relaxing under the ministrations first of a masseuse, then a manicurist and finally a hairdresser-cum-makeup artist. Not 24 hours after her daughter was born via cesarean, Faria was being pampered at an upscale Rio de Janeiro maternity clinic.Cesarean births aren’t typically associated with luxury. But the procedures have become de rigueur among Brazil’s wealthy, with new mothers at some high-end clinics enjoying beauty treatments after the operation in a culture that has come to regard births as glamorous social events — equal parts spa, cocktail party and family get-together. In private clinics nationwide, C-sections account for more than eight of every 10 births.
Authorities want to turn the tide on what Health Ministry officials have called an “epidemic” of cesareans births in the country, with Brazil now the world’s No. 2 recipient of C-sections, second only to China in raw numbers. They have designed new rules aimed at discouraging the procedure when it’s medically unnecessary, saying C-sections dramatically raise the risk of respiratory problems for the infant and death for the mother.
C-sections aren’t more costly than natural births, but many Brazilian doctors prefer to perform surgeries, which end up being more lucrative and more convenient over the long run because they can be scheduled during regular work hours.
The vast majority of Brazil’s mothers-to-be also prefer C-sections, which have become something of a status symbol. Even in the country’s poor public hospitals, where any Brazilian can seek free health care, C-sections represent around 40 percent of deliveries — more than the United States’ 33 percent cesarean rate, which public health experts consider high. In France, C-sections account for around 20 percent of births; in Sweden, 17 percent.”The very special first meeting of mother and child has been transformed into a party. And any party has to have a specific time and place, so hence the cesareans,” said Dr. Marcos Dias, a Rio obstetrician who advocates natural childbirth.