On one side, large plasma screens showing Barcelona v Santos, on the other a coffee bar selling refreshments. This did not feel at all like the kind of hospital I was used to. Along one side the wall was clear glass behind which stood row after row of cots – each with their own individual web cam.
Filled with tables and chairs, the waiting area was more like the kind of coffee shop you find in an airport than a hospital. This feeling was engendered mainly by the large plasma screen at one end which displayed a list of names highlighted in different colours. Instead of a list of planes, this board displayed a different kinds of arrivals. It was a list of all the deliveries scheduled that day.
On each line was written the scheduled time of arrival, the mother’s name, the doctor in charge of the delivery and the status. Each line was highlighted in a colour dependent on its status, white was ‘scheduled’, yellow was ‘in transit’ to the theatre, green indicated that the caesarean was in progress and blue showed that the mother was recuperating from her anaesthetic.
My sister in law had a c-section schedled and we’d all been invited to witness the event. Those fortunate enough to be able to afford private healthcare in Brazil are able to schedule the birth into their diaries. In this case the birth had been scheduled for the Wednesday but, following tests, the procedure had been brought forward to Sunday.
My own daughter had been born by emergency caesarian in St George’s, Tooting, South London after 48 hours of labour and bucket loads of drugs failed to coax my wife’s cervix to dilate more than 8cm. The combination of my daughter’s elongated cranium and the site of the surgeon massaging my wife’s drug soaked womb, in an attempt to get it back in, left me with the impression that planned caesareans might not be such a bad idea.
I was still marvelling at the arrivals board when the Sunday football on the other plasma screens was interrupted by the hospital logo superimposed over pink cartoon clouds. A group waiting at tables suddenly became quite excited and rushed to the screens with cameras at the ready. There followed a short animation in which a cartoon stalk carrying a pink bundle flew over a cartoon Sao Paulo and dropped the bundle onto the roof of the hospital. Then a live picture of a newborn baby appeared surrounded by pink graphics displaying the names of the baby’s parents together with the delivery time and weight of the newborn – though, in my experience, Brazilian’s are a lot less bothered about discovering the exact time and weight at birth than we are in the UK.
The sight of this group of Brazilians taking photos of a screen displaying images of a baby whom moments earlier had been cosy in its mother’s womb was fantastic enough but what followed was truly jaw dropping.
When the time came for my sister-in-law’s name to change from yellow to green, we left the cafe and took the lift to the floor below where we were shown to a large frosted window next to a large number 1. It was at one end of a narrow corridor which seemed to accommodate frosted windows 2 to 7.
After a short wait the window suddenly became miraculously defrosted revealing an operating theatre just at the moment my neice-in-law was being removed from her mother’s womb in time to be held aloft for the mother and, masked father inside and the photo snapping crowd outside to see.
Unexpectedly the window remained defrosted to enable further photo opportunities with father holding the baby while mother was being sewn up. Mother, apparently had no objection to a sea of grinning faces watching her have her innards shoved back inside. Preferring instead to share the birth of her daughter with family and friends in this way.
According to the Brazilian Association of Nurse Midwives and Obstetrics c-sections account for 70% of deliveries in public hospitals and 90% in private hospitals but if this is true it reveals a dramatic growth in c-sections since 2006 when rates in public hospitals were measured at 30.1% and in the supplementary (private) health sector at 80.7%. Nevertheless, both rates are considerably greater than the World Health Organisations recommendation that the c-section rate should not be higher than 10-15%
In addition to the obvious disadvantages of increased and uncomfortable recover time, risk of scarring, infection or complications a recent Brazilian study has revealed that Caesarean delivery is associated with an increased risk of obesity in adulthood. Nevertheless, the speed and convenience of the c-section is too good to pass up for increasing numbers of Brazilian mothers who choose to have their children delivered this way.