Lucky-hour birth decides high C-section rate in Vietnam

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A baby delivered through C-section in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

Defying warnings about the negative health impacts on both mothers and children following C-section surgeries, many families in Vietnam still opt for the method because they want their babies to arrive at a lucky time of day.

Doctors at a three-day maternity healthcare conference ending Saturday in Hanoi said that besides a number of prescribed cesareans, a much larger number of others were decided upon fortunetellers' advice, according to a Tuoi Tre report Friday.

The conference focused on preventing stillbirths and infant deaths.

Wame Baravilala, a consultant on reproduction health for the UN Population Program in Vietnam, told the conference that several countries have control policies for C-sections and the method is only used in 3 percent of deliveries on average.

But the rate can jump to 45-50 percent in countries that don't apply such policies.

Vietnam falls in the latter case, and although there are yet full statistics on the national C-section rate, doctors said the 40-50 percent rate is true to the country's leading ob-gyn hospitals like Hanoi Ob-Gyn Hospital and the Central Ob-Gyn Hospital, also in the capital city.

Smaller hospitals at the district level perform C-sections on 15-20 percent of the deliveries, doctors said at the conference.

Dinh Thi Phuong Hoa, former deputy head of the Mother and Children's Health Department at the Health Ministry, said children born by cesareans do not receive breast milk in their first day as both them and their mothers are separated in different rooms for special care.

Hoa said as their first food is formula milk, the babies easily form the habit of drinking formula instead of their mothers' breastmilk, which is against the golden nutrition rule that babies should be fed breastmilk exclusively at least during their first six months.

The lack of muscular pushing during birth also causes C-section babies not to have as strong breathing as others, she said.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoai Duc from the Institute of Reproduction and Family Health in Hanoi said C-sections should only be used when the mothers or babies carry some complications that make normal deliveries a threat to them.

Death at birth

Experts at the three-day conference, held by International Stillbirth and the Health Ministry's Women and Children's Health Department, said infant deaths in Vietnam are still high and many of them could be prevented.

Figures from the ministry showed that 59 percent of deaths to children under 5 years old happened to newborns.

Khu Thi Khanh Dung, deputy director of the Central Pediatrics Hospital, said top causes of deaths for newborns in Vietnam are infection, cardiac, respiratory and mental conditions, compared to international leading causes of infection, pneumonia and congenital defects.

Dung said half of more than 700 infant deaths at the hospital this year could be avoided with better care.

Doctors said one problem with reducing still births and infant deaths in Vietnam is early marriage ages and early pregnancies, where mothers have little knowledge in taking care of their embryos and infants.

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