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Are U.S. maternity wards performing C-sections too often?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2014 | Hospital Negligence

In our last post we wrote about some of the medical problems that can arise as a result of pregnancy. Prenatal and perinatal care have certainly come a long way over the last century and it seems as though complicated deliveries are less likely to result in severe birth injuries than they once were.

Modern medicine has also found a way to take some of the chaos out of maternity wards. But is our quest for order and predictability actually creating a problem when it comes to standard birthing practices? Vaginal birth remains the most common method of delivery in the United States, but use of the Cesarean section method has increased dramatically since the middle of the 20th century. Now, rates of C-sections have surpassed levels deemed appropriate by the World Health Organization.

Back in 1965, C-sections accounted for only about 4 percent of U.S. births. Today, approximately 33 percent of babies are born this way in America. There are many situations in which a C-section is medically necessary. But according to a 2010 report from the WHO, countries should not exceed a Cesarean section rate of about 15 percent.

Compared to a complication-free vaginal birth, a C-section can increase the risks of certain health problems for both babies and mothers. Babies delivered via C-section may be at greater risk for asthma, allergies, breathing problems and juvenile diabetes. Mothers who go through a C-section may be at a higher risk of infertility, infections and internal bleeding.

Over the past two decades, the rate of C-sections in U.S. hospitals went up by about 60 percent. Many attribute the steep increase to attempts by healthcare facilities to increase order, predictability and profits in maternity wards.

C-sections can reduce the risks of birth injuries in certain cases, but they can also introduce other complications and risks. As such, the decision to deliver vaginally or via C-section should be based primarily if not entirely on medical necessity.

Source: Public Radio International, “Why are Cesarean sections so common when most agree they shouldn’t be?” Tory Starr, May 12, 2014

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