Is Your C-Section Medically Necessary?
The popular procedure is not always medically necessary, which may lead to unnecessary complications
Roughly one-third of all babies born in the United States every year are delivered via a Cesarean section, or C-section. Approximately 1.3 million babies are brought into the world annually by this procedure in the U.S., which involves delivering the baby through an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.
Of course, there are plenty of occasions when C-sections are necessary. If a woman is giving birth to multiples, or if she has certain infections or uterine abnormalities, a doctor will likely schedule a C-section. In addition, if complications arise during labor and birth, a C-section may become necessary, sometimes emergently.
However, though the procedure is certainly a popular one–the most common surgery in the United States–it is not always necessary. In fact, the hospital where parents choose to deliver their babies greatly affects their odds of delivering via C-section. One study showed that, even for low-risk deliveries, the number of C-sections varied significantly by hospital, and that in a majority of hospitals, the rates exceed national targets.
The national target for C-sections is 23.9 percent or less. However, 32 states were found to have C-section rates above the national target for first-time mothers with low-risk deliveries.
According to experts, total C-section rates, which include all births, not just low-risk ones, should rarely be high. Aaron B. Caughey, M.D., the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine, said, “Once cesarean rates get well above the 20s and into the 30s, there’s probably a lot of non-medically indicated cesareans being done. That’s not good medicine.”
Research has shown that close to half of all C-sections were performed when a baby could have been delivered vaginally instead. By using C-sections so liberally, medical providers are subjecting mothers and babies to additional risks, and they are also raising the costs of medical care.
If you want to reduce the chance of having an unnecessary C-section, there are some steps you can take. First, check your hospital’s C-section rate. Make sure that it is close to the national target of 23.9 percent. If your hospital does not release its C-section rates, ask why. If you cannot get an answer, consider delivering elsewhere. In addition, it is a good idea to ask the hospital how they deal with high-risk deliveries, as many hospitals report low C-section numbers because these women are transferred to other facilities. (Conversely, hospitals with a high percentage of high-risk deliveries will have a higher than average C-section rate.)
Similarly, make sure that you choose a provider carefully. Ask whether your doctor’s practice tracks its C-sections and what his or her philosophy on C-section delivery is.
Other ways you can reduce the chance of having an unnecessary C-section are using a midwife (if you have a low to moderate risk pregnancy), watching your weight, staying fit, and avoiding induction of labor unless it is medically necessary.
Complications caused by C-sections
A C-section is a major surgical procedure, and like all surgical procedures, it carries certain risks. For the mother, these include:
- Organ injuries
- Extended hospital stay and recovery time
- Reactions to medications, such as anesthesia
- Risk of future surgeries, such as bladder repair and subsequent C-sections
- Emotional difficulties
Many of these complications can cause long-term medical issues for mothers.
As for babies, possible risks include:
- Premature birth, if the gestational age was not correctly calculated
- Breathing problems
- Low APGAR scores
- Traumatic injuries, such as being cut during the C-section
Thus, there are major risks involved with a C-section, and the decision to undergo such a procedure should not be taken lightly.
The Eisen Law Firm fights doctors who perform unnecessary C-sections
At The Eisen Law Firm, our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys are skilled in handling a variety of medical negligence claims, including those that involve labor and delivery. If you feel that you or your baby was injured by an unnecessary C-section procedure, let us provide a free evaluation of your case. To schedule your free consultation, call us at 216-687-0900 or contact us online.