Cesarean sections can save the mother and child from life-threatening complications at the time of labor. However, recent studies pose concerns regarding the increasing use of the procedure.
Consumer Reports recently investigated 1,500 hospitals across the United States (22 states) and found an overuse of the cesarean method for childbirths. According to Consumer Report’s findings, the average rate for c-sections for mothers who expected a low-risk delivery was 18 percent, which is higher than the national average by nearly 6 percent. The report also notes that mothers who are considered to be low-risk should be able to give a natural birth without surgical intervention.
Another study conducted by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) found that in 2011, one in three women gave birth via c-section. The authors of the report note that birth rates have increased substantially from 1996 to 2011, raising suspicions that the surgery is overused.
“A c-section has far more risk for complication for the mother, and also for future pregnancies,” said Co-Leader of International Cesarean Awareness Network’s (ICAN) Sacramento Chapter, Jill Harmony.
According to ACOG’s study, a c-section is the safest way to deliver the baby for certain conditions such as placenta previa and uterine rupture. For low-risk pregnancies, a cesarean can increase the risk of maternal morbidity and mortality than a vaginal delivery, the report stated.
Harmony added that c-sections can cause complications with the placenta – such as placenta previa or placenta accreta – which can cause bleeding with a vaginal delivery, leaving a cesarean as the next available option and potentially causing even further difficulties. The ACOG cites a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, which finds that the increase of placenta abnormalities increase from 1 percent with only one prior c-section delivery to 3 percent with three or more prior c-section deliveries.
“…[A]lthough the initial cesarean delivery is associated with some increases in morbidity and mortality, the downstream effects are even greater because of the risks from repeat cesareans in future pregnancies,” the authors wrote.
But how do mothers avoid undergoing a c-section if they do not need one? “The biggest thing is finding a supportive care provider and also a hospital that has a lower cesarean rate,” said Harmony. “We recommend first time Moms and those who have had a cesarean, or in a situation where one is likely to be needed, to contact their local ICAN chapter for support and education,” wrote Harmony in an e-mail.
Since it is easier to find a hospital with a higher cesarean rate, Consumer Reports compiled a list of the hospitals with both high and low c-section rates. Among them, certain hospitals located in Colorado and Utah ranked among the lowest, whereas Miami, New Jersey and Texas had some of the highest cesarean rates.
Mothers can also avoid c-sections by keeping a healthy weight, not trying to induce labor unless there is a medical reason for it, having emotional and physical support during labor, among others, stated Consumer Reports.
“Recovering from [a c-section], there’s always the risk of infection, damaged other organs, increased pain, and a longer more difficult recovery,” said Harmony. “Mothers may have a harder time taking care of themselves and their baby, and more likelihood to fall into depression or adjustment to motherhood.”