New research shows that in just 15 years, the worldwide rate of c-section births has nearly doubled. Experts are concerned over these rapidly increasing rates, and are calling for the reduction of unnecessary c-section births that could potentially harm both the mother and the baby.
What are the risks associated with c-section births?
Rapidly Increasing C-Section Rates
A special series of three papers published in The Lancet reveal the alarming rate of c-section births worldwide, and focuses on the optimization of c-section use. Evidently, between the year 2000 and 2015, the rate of c-section births increased from 12 percent to 21 percent, with those in richer countries overusing it and those in poorer countries continue to have little access to a possibly life-saving procedure.
Based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, researchers found that the global use of c-section increased by 3.7 percent per year, with North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Western Europe overusing the procedure. Conversely, other regions such as Africa saw much slower increases in the same period.
In total, 60 percent of the countries were found to overuse c-sections, while 25 percent under-use it. In fact, it was found that nearly 40 percent of all delivered babies were born via c-section, with the highest rate seen in the Dominican Republic with a rate of 58.1 percent.
Unnecessary Use Of C-Section
It is estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of births require c-section due to various complications such as hypertension, bleeding, fetal distress, problems with the placenta, problems with the umbilical cord, or when the baby is at an abnormal position. However, the trends reveal that more and more childbirths are being done via c-section, regardless of whether it is necessary or not. In places such as Brazil and China, many of the c-sections performed were in women with low-risk pregnancies, in women who previously had c-sections, and in women who were well-educated.
Coauthor of the papers Professor Marleen Temmerman of Aga Khan University even note her concerns over how the procedure is being used for non-medical purposes or when it is unnecessary, the most common reasons for requesting for a c-section being past negative experience with vaginal birth, incontinence, reduced sexual function, and fear of labor pain and its effects.
Reduce C-Sections To Reduce Risks
As such, the researchers note how important it is for women to understand the serious risks of getting c-sections and why it is important to opt for it only when necessary. Further, WHO also created recommendations for reducing unnecessary c-sections.
Some of the possible risks associated with c-sections may include bleeding, blood clots, surgical injuries to the mother’s organs, infection, injury to the child, increased risks in future pregnancies, adverse reactions to medications, and breathing problems for the child especially when born before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Maternal mortality rates are also higher for c-section births compared to natural births.
So far, natural childbirth still remains to be the optimal choice for births with lower risks for complications.