[FOUNTAIN]Evading the pain of delivery

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[FOUNTAIN]Evading the pain of delivery

Seduced by a snake to break God's rules and eat from the tree of knowledge, Eve and her descendents were punished by the pain of childbirth. Adam, lured by Eve to also eat the forbidden fruit, was the first to be forced to earn his living by the sweat of his brow. The Biblical book of Genesis says childbirth pains and hard human labor are the results of mankind's original sin.

Many women fear the pains of childbirth more than any other kind of pain, and women have long searched for the dream of painless deliveries. Although it is not painless, delivery by Caesarian section is the closest modern approach.

A Korean word equivalent to "Caesarean section" was derived from a Japanese word which itself is a direct translation of Kaiserschnitt, the German word for the surgical procedure. There is a common belief that Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor, was born by Caesarean section and that the term took its name from him, but that is not the case. Gaius Plinius, a Roman writer, coined the term "sectio caesarea" from the Latin word "caesum," which means "incise." The similar pronunciations of caesum and Caesar led to the confusion.

At one time in Europe, Caesarean sections became popular due to a religious superstition. Europeans believed that Caesarean sections could cast out a spell put on a bewitched baby. In Korea, Dr. Woodbridge O. Johnson, who founded the Dongsan Medical Center in Daegu, first performed a Caesarean section in 1909.

A delivery by Caesarean section is painless because the surgery is performed after the mother is fully anesthetized. But when the anesthetic wears off, she usually feels even more pain than she would have in a natural delivery, doctors say. Recovery after a C-section delivery is slower; a mother is discharged on average 2.9 days after a natural delivery and 7.4 days after a Caesarean section. The risk of complications in a C-section is twice the risk after a normal delivery, and the mothers' mortality rate is four times higher.

Nonetheless, 40 percent of Korean women opted for C-section deliveries last year. That is lower than the 43 percent rate of 1999, but is still much higher than the World Health Organization estimate that C-sections are required in only 5 to 15 percent of deliveries.

Korean women do not understand these statistics, but the fault is mostly that of doctors, who make more money from C-sections. This is another shame -- like Korea's leading rate of smoking, automobile accidents and orphans sent abroad for adoption -- that we must overcome.

The writer is a Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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