By Tanya Basu
July 7, 2015

It’s not a well-known fact, but Brazil is the C-section capital of the world: 85% of all deliveries in the country’s private hospitals are done by cesarean section, and 45% of births in public hospitals.

Now, Brazil is attempting to reverse the trend with rules introduced Tuesday that require doctors to inform expectant mothers of the risks that accompany having a C-section. A woman who chooses a C-section must sign a consent form prior to the procedure. Her doctor must also sign a form justifying the C-section.

The law is aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary C-sections that have been criticized for their negative health consequences; many wealthier women opt for cesarean births for their speed and predictability.

But the issue driving the rate of C-sections in Brazilian maternity wards may in fact be a low bed count. The scarcity of beds, combined with hospitals ill-equipped to deal with natural births that can be unpredictable, is likely to keep the method of delivery popular.

“The best way to guarantee yourself a bed in a good hospital is to book a cesarean,” Pedro Octavio de Britto Pereira, an obstetrician and professor with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told the BBC last year.

[BBC]

Write to Tanya Basu at tanya.basu@time.com.

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