What is ICAN?

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International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN)


What is ICAN?

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is a non-profit advocacy and support group whose mission is to improve maternal and child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, provide support for cesarean recovery, and promote vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Every year we give support and information to thousands of women through our main office, local chapters, and email support group. We provide impartial information, based on the latest research, which is easy to access for women and their care providers.

Supporting Normal Birth

Birth is a normal, natural process for a woman’s body. Given quality emotional support, full information on birth options, and care providers who trust the birth process, 90 to 95 percent (about 9 out of 10) of women can deliver their babies as nature intended, without the need for major surgery. Birth can and should be a time of empowerment, respect and joy. It is a chance for a woman to discover her body’s strength and abilities.

ICAN supports women in finding out their rights and responsibilities regarding birth choices. We work to give women up-to-date, accurate information about their rights. It is every woman’s responsibility to make fully informed decisions about her birth options, just as she will have to for her child’s options later on in life. In order to make decisions, a woman needs to learn about her options from different sources, talk to her chosen care provider, and fully understand the risks and benefits of each option before deciding what is right for her.


Cesareans are Major Surgery

Cesareans are the most common surgery for women in North America. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there is no medical reason for a country to have cesarean rates over 10 to 15 percent. This means that in countries where the rates are higher, cesareans are being done without a good medical reason, and are unnecessary. Across North America, cesarean rates in many hospitals are as high as 25 to 30 percent, and some are closer to 40 percent. (many are over 40 and approaching 50%) Over half of these cesarean surgeries are not medically necessary.

Cesarean Information

A cesarean can be lifesaving for mother and baby, but is major surgery with all its risks. When a cesarean is truly lifesaving, the benefits outweigh the risks of major surgery. However, with those that are not medically necessary, the risks far outweigh the benefits. Complications that are more likely with a cesarean than a normal birth include:

Complications for mother:

  • Death
  • Hysterectomy
  • Severe bleeding
  • Infections
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Injuries from surgery
  • Going back into hospital
  • Problems with scar tissue in body
  • Depression and other negative feelings
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Infertility
  • Ectopic pregnancy in future
  • Placental problems in future pregnancies
  • Uterine rupture in future pregnancies


Complications for baby:

  • Lung problems
  • Injuries from surgery
  • Less likely to be breastfeed
  • Prematurity
  • Asthma and allergies


Avoiding a Cesarean

  • Educate yourself on your birth options and your rights
  • Choose a care provider who will respect your choices
  • Hire a doula or labor assistant
  • Encourage your baby to stay in the best positions for easier birth
  • Avoid induction except for clear medical reasons
  • Read lots of birth stories to get a feel for how different each labor is
  • Trust your body to birth your baby
  • Avoid common medical procedures which increase your chance of a cesarean


Supporting ICAN

ICAN is an all-volunteer organization that relies on memberships and donations for funding. Your financial support helps ICAN provide free information and support for women like you. Membership is tax-deductible for most. Benefits include our quarterly newsletter, The Clarion, and discounts at the ICAN online bookstore and conferences.

ICAN – Making A Difference


Local Chapters

Throughout the United States, Canada, and other countries, women receive the mother-to-mother support they need to avoid unnecessary major surgery, recover from surgical birth, and plan their VBAC at local chapter meetings each month.

The Clarion

Since its founding in 1982, ICAN has published a quarterly newsletter on cesarean prevention, recovery, and VBAC, with articles on birthing trends and personal stories.



ICAN's award-winning website located at www.ican-online.org has easy access to detailed information and research on pregnancy and birth options, including women's rights as patients. It also has an online bookstore stocked with educational materials.

Biannual Conference

ICAN organizes and hosts an international conference in odd numbered years where mothers and childbirth professionals meet to learn and share about the latest trends in cesareans and VBAC. 

Cesarean Awareness Month

Each April is observed with special activities designed to bring public awareness to the international epidemic of surgical birth. The inverted burgundy ribbon is the symbol of cesarean awareness.



We respond daily to inquiries from the media, care providers, and the public who want information on cesarean issues through our toll-free hotline. We collaborate with other organizations involved in childbirth to improve maternal and child health. Online support groups provide a forum for thousands of women who are healing from cesareans and preparing for birth after cesarean. A regular online newsletter provides up-to-the-minute news on issues affecting ICAN's mission.


International Cesarean Awareness Network Inc. (ICAN)
Website:  www.ican-online.org
Email: info@ican-online.org">info@ican-online.org
Toll free: 1-800-686-ICAN (1-800-686- 4226)
Please contact ICAN for additional copies of this and other ICAN brochures.


This may be copied and distributed with retained copyright.
© International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


wp_what_is_ican.doc                                                           8/11/2006
                                                                                          ©2006 ICAN, Inc.

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International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc. ("ICAN") maintains this website as an online information and communications service. Use of this website is at your own risk. The information contained on or provided through this website is intended for general consumer understanding and education only, is not intended to be, and is not provided as a substitute for professional medical advice. Nothing contained on or provided through the website is intended to be or is to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The website is presented by ICAN for the sole purpose of disseminating general health information for public benefit. Always seek the advice of your midwife, physician, nurse or other qualified health care provider before you undergo any treatment or for answers to any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The website and any information provided on the website are not intended to constitute the practice of or furnishing of medical, nursing, or professional health care advice, diagnosis, consultation or treatment or services in any jurisdiction.

Except for information, products, services or merchandise clearly identified as being supplied by ICAN, ICAN does not operate, control, supply, endorse, warrant or guarantee any information, products, services or merchandise available on the website or through the Internet generally in any way. You understand and agree that ICAN does not make any express or implied warranties, representations or endorsements of any kind whatsoever (including without limitation, warranties of title or non-infringement  or any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose) with regard to the website, or with respect to any information, products, services, merchandise or other material provided on or through the website. ICAN does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, completeness, correctness, timeliness, or usefulness of any information, products, services, merchandise or other material provided through the website. ICAN makes no warranty or guarantee that the website will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, or error free.

In no event will ICAN be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken by you or anyone else in reliance upon the information contained on or provided through the website.

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