C-section deliveries on the rise in the United States, but some experts are saying that the rates have gotten far too high already.
For most mothers, a Caesarian section delivery is not their first choice. It’s an invasive surgery that comes with a whole host of risks for both mother and baby.
And yet, in Western countries, C-section rates continue to climb. For most countries that practice modern medicine, C-section rates are between 20-30%. But America, as usual, is exceptional. In the US, the Center for Disease Control estimates current rates of Cesarean deliveries at a world-leading 32%.
You might look at this figure and believe that it’s good--that American doctors are using everything at their disposal to ensure that both mother and child get through their deliveries with the best possible outcomes.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. For over a decade, the medical field has known that a Caesarean section increases the risk of infant mortality by almost three times in the first 28 days of life when compared to a vaginal delivery.
For the mother, C-sections can be even worse. There’s risk of infection, anesthesia overdose or complications, hemorrhaging, blood clots, increased rates of postnatal depression, and even the possibility of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also increase the risk involved with future pregnancies due to C-section-related complications, such as placenta accreta.
Things aren’t much better for the baby. Besides the inherent risks of simply being born too early (as many babies born through elective C-sections are), infants who are born via Cesarean have an increased risk of long-term respiratory issues (such as asthma) as well as increased risk of winding up in the NICU.
But why does America have so many C-section births? There are a number of theories, such as the greater risk of a malpractice lawsuit compared to normal births and doctors looking to control as much of the delivery as possible. There is also the rising obesity rate making a regular birth more difficult, as well as women just waiting to have children later in life in general, which comes with added complications.
Another possible reason is the increased use of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM), which causes doctors to misinterpret a baby’s increased heart rate as a sign of fetal distress. Once a doctor believes the baby is in distress, they’re vastly more likely to order a C-section delivery.
Whatever the cause, it’s something that needs to be addressed. Maternal death rates have increased from 9.1 deaths per 100,000 births in 1986 to 26.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 2017.