Cut It Out

The C-Section Epidemic in America

255 pages

3 figures and 2 tables

November, 2016

ISBN: 9780814764121



Add to Cart Available: 10/1/2016

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Theresa Morris is Associate Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University, where she teaches courses on Organizations, Gender, Reproduction, and Research Methods. She is the author of Cut It Out: The Cesarean Section Epidemic in America (NYU Press, 2013).

All books by Theresa Morris

Cut It Out examines the exponential increase in the United States of the most technological form of birth that exists: the cesarean section.
While c-section births pose a higher risk of maternal death and medical complications, can have negative future reproductive consequences for the mother, increase the recovery time for mothers after birth, and cost almost twice as much as vaginal deliveries, the 2011 cesarean section rate of 33 percent is one of the highest recorded rates in U.S. history, and an increase of 50 percent over the past decade. Further, once a woman gives birth by c-section, her chances of having a vaginal delivery for future births drops dramatically. This decrease in vaginal births after cesarean sections (VBAC) is even more alarming: one third of hospitals and one half of physicians do not even allow a woman a trial of labor after a c-section, and 90 percent of women will go on to have the c-section surgery again for subsequent pregnancies. Of comparative developed countries, only Brazil and Italy have higher c-section rates; c-sections occur in only 19% of births in France, 17% of births in Japan, and 16% of births in Finland.
How did this happen? Theresa Morris challenges most existing explanations of the unprecedented rise in c-section rates, which locate the cause of this trend in physicians practicing defensive medicine, women choosing c-sections for scheduling reasons, or women’s poor health and older ages. Morris’s explanation of the c-section epidemic is more complicated, taking into account the power and structure of legal, political, medical, and professional organizations; gendered ideas that devalue women; hospital organizational structures and protocols; and professional standards in the medical and insurance communities. She argues that there is a new culture within medicine that avoids risk or unpredictable outcomes and instead embraces planning and conservative choices, all in an effort to have perfect births. Based on 130 in-depth interviews with women who had just given birth, obstetricians, midwives, and labor and delivery nurses, as well as a careful examination of local and national level c-section rates, Cut It Out provides a comprehensive, riveting look at a little-known epidemic that greatly affects the lives, health, and families of each and every woman in America. 


  • "In this thoughtful and engaging study, Morris demonstrates how hospitals, insurers, and professional societies have defined cesarean surgery as best practice, even when it is not in the interest of either the mother or her baby. In doing so, she illustrates the importance of organizational context in understanding contemporary medical procedures underscoring how these processes are not necessarily good for patients."

    —Beth Mintz, author of The Power Structure of American Business

  • "Engagingly written, rigorously researched, and compellingly argued, this book [is] a must-read not only for women’s health advocates and scholars of reproduction, but also for those engaged in health care policy."

    —Susan Markens, author of Surrogate Motherhood and The Politics of Reproduction

  • “Theresa Morris calls the C-section epidemic a paradox: doctors don't like it, women don't like it, and we know it's a danger to our health. Yet like a bad habit, we can't seem to stop doing more and more cesareans. Why? Morris demystifies the paradox in clear, accessible terms: rather than ‘patient choice’ or doctors' convenience, it is our systems and institutions driving this addictive behavior. Morris takes you inside those systems and institutions with a critical eye as well as a compassionate ear for the human beings caught in them, and offers concrete solutions to address this major threat to women's and babies' health.”

    —Jennifer Block, author of Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care

  • "The author’s suggestions include changing insurance rules to compensate women and children with poor birth outcomes independent of fault; encouraging the use of doulas, midwives, and out-of-hospital care; counting C-section rate as a hospital quality measure; and loosening policies that reduce physician choice. Morris’s powerful book deserves the attention of policymakers."

    STARRED Publishers Weekly

  • "By looking at the power structures of the medical, legal, and professional organizations involved, the politics that devalue women, the organizational arrangements and protocols of hospitals, and the professional standards used in medicine and the insurance industry, she discovers a culture that avoids risk and encourages planning to avoid adverse outcomes...A useful addition to health sciences and academic library collections."

    Library Journal

  • "It is thoroughly researched, cogently argued, and elegantly expressed given the level of detail it provides medical professionals, decision makers in the health sector, and of course actual and potential mothers and fathers who could all benefit from the information it provides."

    New York Journal of Books

  • "Birth by Caesarean section is expensive and carries a higher risk of medical complications than vaginal birth. Yet in 2011, 33% of US births were by Caesarean. To investigate why, sociologist Theresa Morris crunched the numbers and interviewed more than 100 medical staff and mothers. The culprit, she concludes in this excellent and detailed study, is a risk-averse US medical culture that favours heavily managed births—such as the overzealous use of fetal heart monitors, which restrict the mother's movement—and that frowns on women having vaginal births after Caesareans."


  • "Must Read! Anyone riveted by Rick Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born should snag a copy of Cut It Out."

    Fit Pregnancy

  • "A Trinity College professor, inspired by her own experiences, takes a critical look at Caesarean sections in her new book, Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America."

    —William Weir, The Hartford Courant

  •  "In Cut It Out, she refreshingly steers clear of the home-birthing-good, hospitals-bad dogma that tends to dominate this conversation, instead encouraging empathy with all involved...Morris’s impressive research, as well as the solutions she offers to women, providers and policy planners, makes the book an important contribution to the C-section debate."

    New York Times Book Review

  • "Cut It Out is a compelling examination of the risks associated with cesarean surgery, the reasons for the rise in the cesarean surgery rate, and solutions to address the problem."

    The Family Way Publications

  • “Perhaps the most important of all is that Theresa Morris provides lists of things we can actually DO to lower the cesarean section rate.  Did I cheer when the first thing she mentioned was recommend that women take an independent birth class?  Maybe a little.  Morris’ solutions were more than just for women but for their providers, for insurance companies and policy makers.  Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America, is an important book and one I would strongly encourage anyone who seeks change in childbirth to carefully read.”

    Mama Birth

  • “Morris provides a thorough analysis of how this epidemic developed and suggests ways that this problem might be ameliorated….Her book is the clearest and fullest sociological analysis of the C-section epidemic that I have seen to date.”

    American Journal of Sociology

  • “A major strength in this book is that Morris examines an assortment of data sources and thus achieves a multifaceted research approach for analyzing the increasing number of C-sections being performed.”

    Sociology of Health & Illness

  • "Cut It Out serves as an important resource to understand the complex birthing paradox currently at the root of the increasing C-section rate in the United States."

    Sex Roles