Birthing activists plan to protest Glendale Adventist's decision to ban elective vaginal-breech delivery

After years of offering the procedure, Glendale Adventist Medical Center recently has issued a ban on elective vaginal-breech delivery, a change that is being met with some dissent from birthing activists.

A Glendale Adventist spokeswoman said hospital officials instituted the policy with safety considerations in mind for their patient mothers and babies.

Vaginal breech, which occurs in about 5% of births, involves bringing the baby out buttocks or feet first instead of head first. At Glendale Adventist, instead of a vaginal-breech delivery, hospital staff will perform a cesarean section or refer mothers to academically affiliated obstetrics and gynecology programs in the Los Angeles area that will perform the procedure.

"For more than 111 years, Glendale Adventist Medical Center has proudly provided patients with high-quality care in a safe environment. Our top priority has always been patient safety and the long-term health of our patient mothers and babies," said hospital spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez.

"Given that medical studies are increasingly reporting on increased risks to an unborn child in a vaginal-breech birth, we have taken a cautionary measure and implemented a policy to cease all elective vaginal-breech birth procedures at our hospital," she added.

Gonzalez said that Glendale Adventist is constantly reviewing its policies and takes "evidence-based medical studies, community standards, practitioner input and internal data into consideration when making policy and regulation decisions."

In response to the ban, several midwives, doulas and members from Improving Birth — an activist group that seeks to empower people from so-called "destructive" birth experiences — are planning to stage a protest outside the medical center, located at 1509 Wilson Terrace, on Wednesday.

Dr. Emiliano Chavira, a Los Angeles-based obstetrician-gynecologist, said he will be among the group protesting the ban, which he feels forces women to have C-sections and is against the professional opinion of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Though the organization once favored C-sections over vaginal-breech births, it has since reversed its opinion, Chavira said, if the providers of the procedure have the sufficient skill and experience to perform it.

"This ban goes against what our national guiding organization has recommended," Chavira said. "It violates ethical principles."

Dawn Thompson, president of Improving Birth, said in a statement that Glendale Adventist's ban was likely driven by liability concerns and particularly affects Dr. Ronald Wu, who is the hospital's sole provider of vaginal-breech deliveries and one of only a few in Los Angeles County who perform that type of delivery.

"The reality is, birth is not 100% safe and surgical birth comes with its own set of long- and short-term risks, which are often not discussed with the patient," Thompson said in the statement. "There are other ways of dealing with the liability pressures that providers and hospitals face, but the answer definitely isn't to violate a woman's human rights."

In a statement, Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital officials said, "Glendale Memorial Hospital does not prohibit vaginal-breech deliveries. Doctors carefully evaluate and discuss with patients whether vaginal-breech birth can be performed safely. We want every birth to be safe and joyful, and adhere to ACOG guidelines and prevailing standards."

USC Verdugo Hills Hospital does not offer the procedure, a hospital spokeswoman said.

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Bradley Zint, bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @BradleyZint

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