Really? For a minute I had to glance up to see if I was reading WSJ or the Toilet paper Of India. I thought WSJ was a fairly respectable paper, no?
The reason it took me by surprise is because from my limited knowledge and interaction with moms and to-be-moms in India, I found that most of them do not want a C-sec, and that idea also partly stems from an "old-fashioned" way of thinking- that a normal delivery is a good thing and a C-sec is not. Someone I know had a C-sec and her mom related the news to me almost woefully, even though the baby and mom were fine. There is also some kind of notion that going through the pains of childbirth- particularly labour pains- is apparently fulfilling in some way and necessary.
I also know a lot of cases both in India and the US where the C-sec is the decision of the doctor. This could be due to a host of reasons: A genuine medical reason or A litigation-inspired fear that makes the doc want to cover his/her ass and carry out a C-sec or sometimes, its just a question of practicality for the doctor, his/her calendar, or no time to deal with prolonged labour. Most of the times, I know the mothers to be very keen on natural birth, but eventually give in to the doctor.
Then this from the article:
Indians have been asking astrologers for the perfect time to conceive for centuries. Now, with rising incomes and improved access to health care, many take their gurus' advice to their gynecologists to decide birth times as well.
"In the last three years, it has become rampant. Almost everyone prefers to choose timing," says Rishma Dhillon Pai, a Mumbai-based gynecologist. "It's strange, because you would think that as we grow more modern, this kind of thing would happen less."
While there are no data on how often C-section timings are decided by astrology, the number of caesarean deliveries has surged in India. In the early 1990s, around 5% of births in urban hospitals were caesarean. Today more than 20% are, doctors say, in part because of higher incomes and wider access to health care. (Bold emphasis mine)
In the U.S., the frequency of caesarean sections has risen to more than 30% of births, from around 21% in 1998. The rise has been driven by increases in the number of middle-age mothers and overweight mothers, according to doctors, as well as malpractice concerns.
While the vast majority of Indians still prefer natural birth, doctors say the number of caesarean sections where cosmic timing is a factor has jumped from perhaps one-in-10 a decade ago to as many as one-in-two today. Usually, the timing is chosen only after a C-section has been deemed necessary. But doctors say a growing number of women are opting for the procedure when there is no medical need.
Then the article goes on to describe Indians' faith in astrology, how time of birth is so significant, how in two or three anecdotal cases doctors actually gave in to performing C-secs to suit the mother's superstitious beliefs.
Now I do not expect peer-reviewed-quality in-depth reports replete with error bars and statistical significance from a newspaper, but perhaps the author should have mentioned just how many gynecs he interviewed before he wrote this story. After all, in the absence of any other data, that would've been informative.
To me it seems like the article is conflating all kinds of issues: I am not arguing the bit about how the "time of birth" is deemed important in astrology and how people make kinds of decisions based upon it, but it seems a bit far-fetched to claim that is the reason for increased C-secs in India. If the number of increased C-secs in the US can be explained by more practical reasons ["increases in the number of middle-age mothers and overweight mothers, according to doctors, as well as malpractice concerns"], I don't see why all of those can't apply to India, with the odd section of people who actually want to time their baby's birth so that it aligns with the stars. But of course, its more fun and eye-catching to cater to baseless stereotypes, no?
ETA: see this