A heated debate over the procedure erupted after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, addressing a conference in May, expressed his opposition to C-section surgery, describing it as unnatural. After Erdoğan's remarks, the Ministry of Health drafted legislation to decrease Turkey's high number of C-sections. According to the new law, passed in Parliament on Wednesday, C-section deliveries can now only be performed in cases of medical necessity.
Participating in an interview on CNN Türk on Wednesday evening, Minister Akdağ announced that severe fear of natural birth will be considered a medical necessity in the decision to perform a C-section. “C-sections will not be performed without medical necessity, but we will even consider severe fear of vaginal delivery as a reason for cesarean delivery. One of the most important reasons that we wrote the law is that doctors have been presenting C-section delivery as a normal alternative to natural birth, which has increased the number of C-section births in Turkey in recent years.”
Akdağ further stated that when a pregnant woman asks about the difference between traditional childbirth and delivery by C-section and which option is better, doctors will no longer be allowed to respond by saying both are the same and recommending a C-section. “Doctors who perform C-section surgeries without medical necessity will be punished. Such acts will be considered bad medical practice,” Akdağ noted.
Stressing the medical risks of C-section births, Akdağ further added that children delivered by C-section are two times more likely to become obese than children delivered by vaginal birth.
According to the most recent data released by the Ministry of Health, the rate of C-section births in 2009 was 39.3 percent for public hospitals, 61.8 percent for private hospitals and 63.2 percent for university hospitals. In 2010 these rates increased to 40.2 percent, 63.7 percent and 65.2 percent, respectively. In 2011 the same rates stood at 36.8 percent, 66.6 percent and 65.9 percent, indicating a gradual increase in C-section surgeries.
The acceptable percentage of C-section births according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is between 15 and 18 percent. The Ministry of Health launched a media campaign earlier this year to help curb increasing rates of birth by C-section, and set a target to reduce the rate to 35 percent by 2013.