ICAN's Mission Statement

ICAN's mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).

ICAN's Vision Statement:

A healthy reduction of the cesarean rate driven by women making evidence-based, risk appropriate decisions.


ICAN's Statement of Beliefs

We, the International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc., believe that:

1. The inappropriate over use of cesarean surgery is jeopardizing the lives of mothers and babies.

2. When a cesarean is necessary, it can be a lifesaving technique for both mother and baby, and worth the risks involved.

3. Birth is a normal physiological process. Research shows that with emotional support, education, and an honest opprotunity, the vast majority of women can have a healthy vaginal birth.

4. A healthy birth incorporates emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

5. Research shows that VBAC is reasonable and  safe for both mother and baby. A repeat cesarean should never be considered  routine- it is major abdominal surgery with many risks.

6. It is unethical and unenforceable for hospitals to institute VBAC bans. Women have the right to refuse any procedure, including a cesarean.

7. Women have the right to true informed consent and refusal, which entails full knowledge of the risks and benefits of all tests, drugs, and procedures.

8. It is incumbent upon every care provider and institution to facilitate the informed consent process.

9. Women must be allowed to express all their birth related feelings in a safe and supportive environment. The emotions of a pregnant and birthing woman have profound effects on the birth outcome and recovery.

10. It is unethical for a physician to recommend and/or perform non-medically indicated cesareans (elective) . Women are not being fully informed of the risks of this option in childbirth, and therefore make decisions based on cultural myth and fear surrounding childbirth.

11. The trend of "elective cesareans" is being significantly overstated through distortion of research and data.

12. We as women must now assume more responsibility for our own births. 

13. It is critical that women's choice of care provider and location of birth be respected.


 History of ICAN

In June 1982, Esther Booth Zorn — widely recognized as the country's leading voice in a growing chorus to reduce the nation's high cesarean rate — conceived the Cesarean Prevention Movement (CPM) at her dining room table with Liz Belden Handler. 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 has been regarded as gospel.

ICAN has never opposed medically necessary surgical births that save lives. But medical experts, Zorn says, estimate that almost half of the cesareans performed in the United States each year are not medically necessary.

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) to reflect a more positive statement. Esther Zorn stepped down as executive director of ICAN in 1994 to pursue another career. Zorn partly attributes the nation's high cesarean rate to "our technological, appointment-book society," which makes both doctors and women impatient with the slow process of labor and delivery.

At its most basic level, the war Zorn has waged aims to put childbirth decisions back into the hands of the women experiencing it. Zorn has had such an impact on people regarding childbirth, that it gives women the courage and strength that impacts all corners of their lives.

Now, 20 years later, ICAN continues to carry the torch lit by Esther Booth Zorn. With chapters all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico, ICAN continues to strive for the rights of women to birth safely, as they choose. Their goal is still an uphill battle. With new ACOG guidelines once again turning back to some of the old ways, ICAN has its work cut out for them for a long time to come. 

Today, the organization is credited with sparking a successful movement to increase the number of vaginal birth after cesareans (VBACs). We sincerely appreciate your desire to strengthen ICAN's role in helping women, and we welcome you to a team of supportive and encouraging women, known as the International Cesarean Awareness Network.


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