Why Unnecessary C-sections Do More Harm Than Good
A comprehensive new report that clarifies the consequences of an unnecessary c-section
But don’t women need those C-sections they’re having?
Probably not in many cases, especially when it comes to repeat C-sections. Most of those patients can safely deliver vaginally.
How many C-sections do we do now?
In the US, about 33% of our deliveries are C-sections. Research shows that in most cases, vaginal deliveries are probably a safer choice for mothers and babies, even when complications arise in pregnancy or labor.
If 33% is too many, what percentage reflects an appropriate use of C-sections?
About 15%. This would mean women who need c-sections are getting them and those who don't are not. When more than 15% are preformed, we start to see problems like the ones described above. When we see less than 15%, that means women don't have access to the emergency help they need to save their lives.
What reasons do women receive as to why they need a C-section?
- Often, they’re told there are risks involved with having a vaginal birth after Cesarean. Sure there are, but there are also risks to having a Cesarean.
- Often they’re told that labor is progressing too slowly. Yep, that happens, but it isn’t necessarily a problem, except for doctors and midwives who are tired, juggling office and family hours or who aren’t trained to let nature take its course.
- Lots of C-sections are done because doctors, nurses or midwives don’t like the way the fetal heart tracing looks. Well, studies show that the correlation between funky looking strips and babies born by C-section who were actually in danger has about a 99% error rate. 99% of the time those babies are fine.
The benefit of reports like this are that they get people talking and it appears, we have a lot to talk about. What do OBs think about the report? Dr. David L Keefe, MD, Chairman of the OBstetrics and Gynecology Department at NYU-Langone Medical Center says, “It’s 100% accurate. If you ask any OB what they think they’ll say it’s all true. It’s implementing change that’s the problem.”
If you or your loved one is pregnant, check out this booklet: What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know About Cesarean Section at Childbirth Connection and find out what you need to know to make the best healthcare choices for you and your baby.
Editor's Note: This blog was edited to reflect that the National Priorities Partnership and its member organizations did not participate in researching, preparing, or reviewing the report.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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