Do South Africans Care More About Their Cars Than Their Births?

We are notoriously famous for not questioning poor service in South Africa. Even if we mumble and grumble, we seem to settle for second best – and service providers get away with murder a lot of the time.

Maybe murder is a bit of a strong word in the light of today’s topic, though a death of a dream is often involved. One notable exception to the tolerance we have for poor service is how many South Africans will not accept second best for their cars. If we have had poor service, we will fight it tooth and nail. We will also not buy just any car, but will take a close look at many models, test drive more than one and ask many probing questions. If panelbeating is ever required but not up to standard, war will be declared, that’s for sure!

Choosing birth assistants and settling for poor care is a totally different matter, however. It beats us how many couples accept whatever is told to them about their birth options (or lack of them), how women stick with gynaes they don’t even feel comfortable with and how they don’t ask for reasonable explanations about important things happening to their bodies and their babies. We are known for our inherent respect of all things medical in South Africa but that doesn’t mean we have to accept poor service or poor client relations.

Here are a few sobering thoughts:

  • At least half of all Caesarean sections done in South Africa are unnecessary, yet very few women who have a C-section (or their partners) think that theirs was one of the unnecessary ones – in fact, they may well be led to believe that their and their baby’s lives were saved by the operation.
  • Though research shows that upright birth positions shorten and make labour easier, most clinics and hospitals don’t encourage or make any position possible for women to give birth other than semi-prone or lying down, which often leads to a far more difficult and traumatic experience.
  • Very few gynaes and hospital midwives in South Africa have much expertise in or practice at natural birth and yet tell moms-to-be that natural birth has more risks – despite evidence that C-section has far more risks, especially when not really necessary!
  • Many babies who are predicted to be “too big to be born normally” turn out to weigh far less than their mothers were told in pregnancy; we have yet to hear of any couple questioning this with the doctor afterwards.
  • There are still incidences in hospitals around the country where women are either shouted at or even physically abused in labour by the nurses or midwives caring for them, despite our constitution, the Patients’ Rights Charter and official hospital policies.

Now, if your car was subjected to unnecessary procedures, you found that the fuel consumption is not at all what you were led to expect or the cost of your routine service was unreasonable for the poor quality received, you would probably be back there in a flash, fighting for your rights and making sure amends were made, wouldn’t you?

But what about your birth experience? You have the right (and possibly the responsibility) to “interview” a few hospitals and birth practitioners, ask probing questions, and to expect evidence-based, honest answers, to enable you to select the best service providers and birth options. You do have options and rights, but if you don’t insist on these and vote with your feet and words, your car will have better service than you will, sad to say!