International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN)
The International Cesarean Awareness Network is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by reducing preventable cesareans through education, supporting cesarean recovery, and advocating for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).
A reduction in the cesarean rate driven by women assuming responsibility for their healthcare by making evidence-based, risk appropriate childbirth decisions.
Statement of Beliefs
1. The inappropriate overuse of cesarean surgery is jeopardizing lives.
2. When a cesarean is necessary, it can be a lifesaving technique, and worth the risks involved.
3. Birth is a normal physiological process. With emotional support, education, and an honest
opportunity, the vast majority can have a healthy vaginal birth.
4. A healthy birth incorporates emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
5. Research shows that VBAC is realistic and safe for a majority and a repeat cesarean should never be considered routine– it is major abdominal surgery with many risks.
6. VBAC bans are unethical and unenforceable for hospitals to institute. People have the right to informed refusal which includes declining a cesarean.
7. Facilitation of the informed consent process is incumbent upon every care provider and
8. People have the right to informed consent and refusal, which entails full, unbiased knowledge of the risks, benefits and alternatives of all recommendations.
9. Birthing people must be allowed to express all their birth related feelings in a safe and
supportive environment. Emotions have profound effects on the birth outcome and recovery.
10. Recommending and/or performing non-medically indicated cesareans, including elective, is unethical for providers without first informing of all risks of this option, both long and short term.
11. Providers and facilities must make every effort to provide options during cesareans that
embody as many of the environment, experiences and research-based benefits of a vaginal birth as possible, as in gentle or family centered cesareans.
12. The number of cesareans on maternal request is being significantly overstated through
distortion of research and data.
13. Consumers must assume more responsibility for their own births.
14. Respecting a person’s choice of care provider and location of birth is critical.
Who should attend ICAN of Syracuse monthly meetings?
* Persons planning to become pregnant, currently pregnant, or postpartum seeking information about informed options, informed consent, informed refusal, and collaborative care.
* Persons seeking support from other experienced pregnant persons about options for where to have your next baby.
* Persons seeking support from other experienced pregnant persons about choosing a primary birth delivery provider that might be the best fit for you?
* Persons seeking support and information for preventing a primary (1st) cesarean.
* Persons seeking support for a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC).
* Persons seeking support for a cesarean birth after a cesarean (CBAC).
* Persons seeking support for a home birth after cesarean (HBAC).
* Persons seeking support for a repeat cesarean birth after a cesarean (CBAC).
* Persons seeking support for homebirth cesarean (HBC).
* Persons seeking support for a vaginal birth after multiple cesareans (VBAMC).
* Persons seeking support during recovery from an unexpected outcome.
* Persons seeking support following a traumatic birth experience.
Monthly meetings are intended as support for birthing parents and their significant others.
History of ICAN
The International Cesarean Awareness Network can be traced back to June 1982 when Esther Booth Zorn conceived the Cesarean Prevention Movement (CPM) at her dining room table with Liz Belden Handler, right here in Syracuse! Zorn is credited for bringing the issue to national prominence–and for successfully challenging the long-held “once a cesarean, always a cesarean” dictum that for years had been regarded as gospel. With Esther and Liz working together, ICAN (then CPM) was born on Esther’s dining room table after they spent all night putting together the first ICAN newsletter, The Clarion. Within a month of mailing out the first 500 copies, there were so many inquiries Esther had to reprint more Clarions. Esther’s words struck a chord with women in this country.
Just two years after founding CPM, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued guidelines promoting vaginal births after previous cesareans. Four years later, ACOG issued another set of guidelines aimed at dismantling the old “once a cesarean, always a cesarean” rule. In 1992, the Cesarean Prevention Movement changed its name to International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc. (ICAN) and was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in the state of New York in the USA.
Today, the organization is credited with sparking a successful movement during the 1990s to lower the overall cesarean rate by increasing the number of vaginal births after cesareans (VBACs). After VBAC gained acceptance in the mid-1990s, the need for ICAN seemed to be gone and the organization entered a period of decline, going from over 80 chapters in 1990 to 22 in 2000.
The pendulum has swung back since 1999. In July of that year, ACOG revised their VBAC guidelines in response to medico-legal concerns in a manner, which has put a chill on VBAC across the United States and, by example, the world. As we embark on 2010, the overall cesarean rate is the highest in United States history, and the option of hospital VBAC is seriously threatened as hundreds of facilities in the United States have closed their doors to VBAC entirely. Thousands of women are left with no options in childbirth. Since the change in VBAC guidelines, ICAN’s subscriber base has increased from 47 in December of 1999 to 453 at the end of 2003, representing an almost ten-fold increase in a relatively short amount of time. In the summer of 2003, for the first time in a decade, ICAN had in place a full Board of Directors and was ready to plan for the future. At the close of 2009, ICAN had over 630 members and over 120 chapters. ICAN has been involved in many great events, including reversing some VBAC bans, mentions in national media, and a hearing on Capitol Hill. Our Chapters, Regional Coordinators, and Board members have been providing support and facilitating great changes throughout the United States and all over the world.
At its core, ICAN is a grass-roots organization made up of local chapters all over the United States and Canada that provide mother-to-mother support and education about cesarean prevention and VBAC. All chapter leaders, Board members and officers are volunteers. There is no paid staff. An Advisory Board comprised of recognized experts in the maternal-child health field supports the International Board. International interest in ICAN’s mission is growing and new chapters are being started all over the world. The Board expects to see more International Chapters within the next several years.
ICAN celebrates April as Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM). During April, Chapters and ICAN National make special efforts to raise awareness concerning the rising cesarean rates nation wide.
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