Imagine all of the most important people in your life gathering around, reveling and cheering, as a doctor pulls your newborn baby from the cesarean incision in your abdomen.
It’s a familiar scene in Brazil’s hospitals, where it’s now common for affluent families to throw white-glove “C-section parties,” complete with mood lighting, chocolates and fresh flowers.
“Don’t we get dressed up for parties and special dates? It’s the same thing,” new mom Mariana Casmalla tells the Washington Post. The 28-year-old dental surgeon recently had a C-section at the Albert Einstein Maternity Hospital in Sao Paulo, with 15 of her friends and family members documenting the “party” on their smartphones.
Elective C-sections — meaning there’s no medical reason to perform one — have become the preferred birth method among wealthy Brazilians, who say they are too busy and cautious to risk the unpredictability of natural childbirth.
Fifty-five percent of all deliveries in Brazil are done via C-section, according to the country’s Ministry of Health. In the US — where elective C-sections are legal, but discouraged — the rate is just 32.9%.
“It’s cultural,” says Marcia da Costa, the director of Sao Paulo’s Sao Luiz private hospital, where a mother-to-be can have her hair and makeup done or rent the “presidential suite” featuring a living room, guest bathroom, balcony and minibar.
“Brazilians want to plan for everything,” she tells WaPo. “They don’t want to hit traffic on the way to the hospital. They want to get their nails done, get a wax, to plan it like an event.”
Event organizers have begun specializing in these sorts of birth parties, lending a hand with hiring stylists and caterers, stocking the bar and decorating.
Party planner Paula Ascar Baracat, co-founder of Estudio Matre, tells WaPo Brazilians want to be able to share the occasion with loved ones, but sometimes a tired new mom simply “doesn’t want to entertain at home” after the birth, during a time when she’ll be “learning to breast-feed” and other maternal duties.
However, the World Health Organization warns against the practice, which is historically nearly twice as deadly for moms than natural birth and can cause the baby respiratory stress. C-sections also require a longer recovery time for both mom and baby. The procedure also has been linked to higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure in children born this way.
They’re also more expensive — but apparently worth the risk and cost to many Brazilian families, who fear their country’s long history of understaffed and poorly supplied clinics, which didn’t always have the resources to monitor the long hours natural birth often requires. Some parents simply want to guarantee they get an appointment with their personal doctor rather than working with whichever doctor is available during labor.
“C-sections today are much safer than they were 30 years ago,” says Olímpio de Moraes Filho of the Brazilian Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Things are changing. Women are in the job market. Couples are trying to schedule a moment when the family can get together.”