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1953 Los Angeles Times Editorial: Caesarean Often Not Necessary

Caesarean Often Not Necessary

William Brady

Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1953, Page B4


The opening of a new wing or an additional floor of a hospital was heralded recently with an elaborate television production which gave the public an intimate insight into the workings of the hospital. It also afforded favored members of the staff and sycophants a wonderful opportunity to appear on the home screens of the community to show how they perform modern miracles – especially Caesarean operations.


For Moderns Only

The new building or a considerable part of it was designed and equipped especially and exclusively for Caesarean births. If you are content to have your baby in the quaint, old-fashioned way you need not apply for admission to this institution.

My goodness, I though as I watched spellbound the show put on by the trick specialists and their humble aides, were we old duffers of the horse and buggy era so utterly incompetent that we never or seldom grasped the opportunity to “perform” Caesarean section?


Often Unnecessary

Or were our obstetric patients made of better material in those days? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “NO.”

From my observation and study of the practice of obstetrics by 20th century specialists, I say without hesitation that in a great many instances Caesarean section is unnecessary.

If young women were better educated, perhaps they would not be so easy frightened into accepting Caesarean delivery as the way to avoid the “throes” of childbirth.

If they’d even sit out a few bridge or cocktail parties and read “Childbirth Without Fear,” by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read (published by Harper, $2.75) they might learn something to their lifelong advantage.




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Reader Comments (10)

The more things change, the more they stay the same... :-(

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy


I'm tearing my hair out trying to find the 1953 cesarean rate. I think it was 1 in 30,000 and increased to 5% or so in 1970. I seriously doubt there were that many unnecesareans. If you peel off the dated chauvanistic layer, this applies more today than it did 56 years ago.

EDIT: OK, 1 in 30,000 is the incidence of accreta. Now the incidence can be as frequent as 1 in 500. The cesarean rate in 1950 was also around 5%.

June 11, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

That was great!

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

"If young women were better educated, perhaps they would not be so easy frightened into accepting Caesarean delivery as the way to avoid the “throes” of childbirth."
Still blaming women after all these years.

June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReality Rounds



Too undereducated, too scared of labor and their doctors so they just accept the cesarean.


June 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill--Unnecesarean

It's amazing he is saying this in the 1950s. If he saw our cesarean rate now, he would probably have a cow.

And I do think that if women were more educated about birth, it wouldn't be so high. They accept things blindly, and the rate will keep going up until we, as women, learn that it is our birth and we shouldn't be taking a doctor's advice on unnecessary procedures.

Great story, though!

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayce

Kayce, have you ever told your grandparents that many hospitals section 40 percent or more of the women that go in to give birth? They fall out of their chairs.

It's tough because there's that fine line between encouraging maternal responsibility and preparedness and blaming them for just trying ot take the easy way out of labor (because surgery is so much easier, right?). I'm pretty sensitive to it because I see it so often. Even by citing a litigious society as the reason for so many c/s, doctors are blaming women. It's saying "I don't trust YOU, lady, not to sue me. YOU will call a lawyer and sue me if I don't demonstrate that I've maxed out interventions. So YOU caused this c/s to happen. All I did was operate because my hands are tied."

What Reality Rounds said is something that I picked up on right away, along with a few other interesting things. The attitude and word choices are fascinating to me. But educating, empowering and providing a critical look at obstetric mythology coupled with scientific evidence so women can make the best decisions for themselves... heck yeah.

June 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

I completely agree. I was told it was my fault I had a cesarean. They told me the benefits of a version, and then skimmed over the risks, but said I wouldn't experience any of them. If I didn't have the version, I would schedule a cesarean at week 39 (thinking back I should have done that and maybe she would have turned or at least wouldn't have been in a NICU for a week). I didn't research because I trusted that they would give me all the information I needed. I don't want this to happen to other women.

Even though it shouldn't be our responsibility to seek out the information ourselves, in our society we have to. And normally, it takes a bad first birth for us to question the system. It is such blind faith that it makes me sick. And I was one of those women! I thought I knew so much, and come to find out I knew next to nothing.

If a woman is cut open unnecesarily, it is not her fault. Her body wasn't made wrong. Her babies aren't made too big. She was made to give birth. We wouldn't be set up this way if we weren't able to. The fact that doctors have so much power to make us feel so completely worthless just makes me angry. A woman completely in their care, and they treat it like a disease they need to save the baby from. It's plain wrong.

I don't think I would go back and change what happened in my birth. Without it, I wouldn't have finally found my career path in life. I just don't want women to make the same mistakes I did and trust blindly. The system is so screwed up, and if we sit and do nothing, it will always stay that way.

(Sorry for the novel... I got excited haha)

June 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayce

I could have written that almost verbatim. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. If someone has never heard otherwise and makes decisions that involve dangerous medical procedures, then it's not a blind decision. I like how you said blind faith. We want to believe that our care providers would never steer us in the wrong direction and always have our best interests in mind. Now that it has "officially" come out that fear of being sued is the motivation for most cesareans, I think it's clear that it's not the woman's interest that comes first. Sad. What an abuse of that faith in the profession, huh?

June 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

It truly is. You shouldn't let people sue if there truly is no reason for it. Like when the people sued McDonalds because their coffee was hot, well no duh! Our society needs to be completely revamped and doctors need to be able to look out for the patient instead of paying out the butt for malpractice insurance.

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayce
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