Why Unnecessary C-sections Do More Harm Than Good
A comprehensive new report that clarifies the consequences of an unnecessary c-section
We’re always harping about what women should do to avoid having a C-section around here. Most women are pretty motivated to avoid that surgery (the #1 surgical procedure performed in America, by the way), but some women have emailed or commented that they don’t see what the big ol’ deal is. It’s a safe surgery, right? It’s just another way to get that baby out, right? If it means they don’t have to push for hours, then all the better. Some women say their doctor wants them to have a C-section because it’s safer or easier, and they agree. So what’s the problem? While most of the time C-sections are safe, a new report came out last month tells us explicitly what the big ol’ deal is.
Childbirth Connection, a national non-profit organization that focuses on safe, effective, evidence-based maternity care, created the report after participating in a multi-stakeholder national effort to address unsafe maternity care practices, including overuse of c-sections in low-risk women. This national effort, called the Maternity Action Team engaged leading organizations including The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Nurse-Midwives Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, March of Dimes and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
They determined not only are we doing too many unnecessary C-sections, they’re causing harm to mothers and babies. What’s more, it’s not just high-risk mothers who are having surgery. We often hear the argument that more older mothers and mothers with health problems are the main contributors to our rising C-section rate.
This report demonstrates that in reality, we’ve been doing more C-sections on women at low and high risk for complications, with and without prior C-sections, in preterm and term pregnancies, across all ages, races and ethnicities.
Proportionately, more low risk women are getting C-sections and the evidence is mounting that they usually don’t need them, they’re exposing women and babies to potential harm and not providing much benefit. All these extra C-sections are contributing to maternal mortality rates edging upwards (twice what they were in 1987).
Childbirth Connection asked: What physical effects may occur in women more frequently with cesarean delivery? Here’s the list:
- Maternal death
- Cardiac arrest
- Urgent hysterectomy
- Thromboembolic events (blood clots)
- Anesthetic complications
- Major infection
- Rare, life-threatening complications including amniotic fluid embolism or uterine artery pseudoaneurysm
- Wound infections
- Wound disruption
- Increased length of hospital stay
- Hospital readmission
- Problems with physical recovery including general health, bodily pain, extreme tiredness, sleep problems, bowel problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and ability to perform strenuous activities
- Chronic pelvic pain
They ranked the likelihood of these complications (or tragedies) occurring from very small to very large and the exact correlations (and complete report) can be checked out here.
What physical effects may occur in babies more frequently with cesarean delivery?
- Neonatal mortality
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Not breastfeeding
What role may cesarean delivery play in the development of childhood chronic disease? It turns out they increase incidence of these diseases:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Allergic Rhinitis
- Symptomatic Food Allergies