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VBAC Ban Protest at Cottage Hospital

Cottage Hospital must think we are idiots.

They claim there is no “VBAC ban,” but if you look at their VBAC & CS rates, you will see that three women, three, had VBACs there in 2006, which gave them a VBAC rate of 0.9%.  That means that 99.1% of women have repeat cesareans at Cottage Hospital.  The VBAC rate in California is 9%, 10 times higher than the VBAC rate at Cottage Hospital, so unless the women of Santa Barbara are somehow different than the women of California, over 99% then do not want repeat cesareans.  Below is a chart comparing Cottage Hospital’s statistics to the state average.  You can see the complete chart, including all California hospitals, here.

RATE (%)
RATE (%)
Statewide   135120 27.3 68540 16.4 6687 9.1 7493 9.0
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital 556 24.7 266 14.0 2 0.7 3 0.9

In late June 2008, women from the Birth Action Coalition came together to protest outside of Cottage Hospital.  The Independent, The Daily Sound, and the Santa Barbara News Press all covered the event as well as a local Santa Barbara news channel.  (The piece from the Santa Barbara News Press is only available if you register with their website or pay for access.) Below are pictures and excerpts from the articles.

From The Independent: Families Protest Outside Cottage Hospital:  Say Mothers Should Be Allowed “Natural Childbirth” Regardless of Previous C-Sections by Catherine Meagher and Kathleen Zaratzian, Independent interns

Protestor Jennifer Vanschmus and her child, Devin (Photo by Catherine Meagher)

Amara Maliszewski explained that for many women, it is devastating news “when someone tells you [that] you can never experience this awesome natural miracle.” Maliszewski said she felt lucky to have delivered her “VBAC baby,” Lucinda, at home with a midwife. She also said that many doctors do not recommend women to have more than two or three cesareans in their lifetime; and with American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) recommendation to obstetricians to deliver babies via cesarean sections, women are consequently limited as to the amount of children they are able to have, protestors said. “This is a civil rights issue to birth your child the way that you want,” said Adela Barcia, a psychotherapist specializing in prenatal and perinatal health and psychology. Barcia has experience with the evidence that the method of birth affects the psychological and physical health of the baby and mother and said she works with “many women who have profound grief about the issue.”

Protestor Carrie Bluth and her child (Photo by Catherine Meagher)

Doctors told Abraham and Jessica Powell that she had a .5 percent of a chance of uterine rupture after VBAC. Uterine rupture is the most commonly cited risk with VBAC, when the uterus tears during delivery, requiring the delivery to be switched to a cesarean. According to ACOG, the switch causes an increased risk of infection to both the baby and mother. “Finally, what it comes down to is a question of choice,” said Jessica Powell. After she went into labor, she had to drive to UCLA where VBAC is standard procedure. “It seems crazy and it is.”

Protestor Carrie Bluth explained that she found an obstetrician at Ventura Community Memorial who was very sympathetic towards her. When asked how she delivered VBAC, she answered simply, “I asserted my rights.” She refused to have the surgery when she arrived at the hospital late in her labor, and immediately said she did not want a cesarean.

Jessica Barton, the organizer of the protest, said she hopes that obstetricians in Santa Barbara will be practicing VBAC again soon. Barton continued that it doesn’t matter if the hospital calls it a ban or policy. “Women are experiencing a lack of access to VBAC in our community,” she said, noting that a big challenge for new mothers after having a cesarean is the extensive recovery period. After her own cesarean, Barton says the first few days she was hardly able to pick up her new baby, which made it difficult to breastfeed. “It was 12 weeks before I felt like my real self again,” she says; it’s for this reason that she is fighting for the option of VBAC rather than going through major surgery again.

Currently, Barton and her fellow protesters from Birth Action Coalition are working to raise awareness in the community; they are also writing letters and pressuring the hospital to allow VBACs once again. Another rally is planned to take place in Ventura.



From The Daily Sound: Group protests birth policy by Eric Lindberg, Daily Sound Staff Writer

“Having done it both ways now, I can tell you the emotional and physical benefits of having a natural birth far outweigh the supposed health risks of a cesarean,” Powell said.

In 2003, obstetricians practicing at Cottage Hospital came to a group decision not to assist in natural deliveries when the mother had a prior c-section, hospital officials said, and few if any have been performed there since.

“There’s no ban on performing VBACS at Cottage, there are just no obstetricians that are willing to do it,” Cottage Hospital spokeswoman Janet O’Neill said. “…It does tend to be a trend across the country.”

Since Cottage Hospital doesn’t have a residency program for obstetricians or gynecologists, local physicians determined they couldn’t meet ACOG’s recommendations and decided against VBACs.

“Nobody should be forced into surgery,” [Jessica Barton] said. “…I want that to be my choice with my doctor.”

Dr. Reid said if a doctor came to the Cottage Hospital board requesting to perform a VBAC, that doctor would have to explain why they felt the approach is safe while their colleagues have decided against it.

“That person would have to make a pretty good case,” he said. “…Generally, I don’t believe that they’re safer than c-sections. I think that’s what our staff feels.”

Powell said she had few worries about her second pregnancy other than making it to UCLA Medical Center in time. If she has more children, she said she would try for a VBAC again.

“I felt I was able to complete a process I was naturally made to do,” she said. “It felt really good to me to say absolutely not. You’re not going to foist any decision on me.”

Jennifer Matthews, another mother protesting outside Cottage Hospital yesterday, said she had her two children, a 2-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter, by c-section at the hospital after learning she couldn’t try for a VBAC with her daughter.

She said she was saddened by the fact that she likely won’t be able to have more children as most doctors recommend having only two to three cesarean deliveries.

“I really had always wanted to have a lot of kids,” she said. “…It may be too late for me to have a VBAC.”

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2 comments to VBAC Ban Protest at Cottage Hospital

  • I think that men should absolutely be banned from performing births. They do not understand women or their feelings and most of them only want to do what is convenient for them.

    When my sister was pregnant, the doctor performed a C Section because it was goint to be a three day weekend, and since my sister was close to labor, he didn’t want to miss out on his holiday. He was absolutely not concerned for her!

  • Amber Harden

    I live in Alabama, and the very same thing happened to me and several people I know. The Doctors now days, just don’t care about you, all they care about is their convience and extra money they make from c-sections. It makes me sick. Natural childbirth was very important to us, but our Doctor made that decision for us….my husband overheard my Doctor outside the operating room on his cell phone, say how he would rather do c-sections and go home. And we TRUST Doctors….WHAT A BIG JOKE!

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