A cesarean section is a surgical procedure to deliver a baby from the mother’s womb. It is sometimes necessary due to complications during childbirth, such as abnormal positioning, fetal distress or prolonged labor.
Because of the risks associated with cesarean section, vaginal births are generally preferable. However, NPR reports that the rate of C-sections has increased steadily in the United States over the past 30 years, which has doctors and scientists alarmed.
Reasons for the increase
Sometimes mothers-to-be opt for an elective C-section, i.e., a procedure that is not medically necessary. According to Healthline, this can prevent trauma and oxygen deprivation to the baby during birth. It also lessens the mother’s chances for future sexual dysfunction and incontinence and takes some unpredictability out of the equation. However, the risks of complications are higher with C-sections. Even with an uncomplicated C-section, the hospital stay and recovery period are longer than they would be with a vaginal birth.
Another possible reason for the increase is that some obstetricians may recommend C-sections to patients for whom the procedure would not be beneficial. Scheduling a C-section in advance is more convenient for the doctors, and they can charge more for a C-section than a vaginal birth.
Possible complications of C-sections
C-sections can have adverse effects for both the mother and the baby. If the procedure takes place prior to 39 weeks’ gestation, the baby may develop breathing problems because the lungs have not had sufficient time to develop. Even if the procedure takes place after 39 weeks, the baby could be at risk for autoimmune disease or obesity later in life.
For the mother, C-section increases the risk of the following potentially life-threatening complications:
- Uterine rupture
- Cardiac arrest
- Excessive bleeding
Complications from a C-section could require an emergency hysterectomy, preventing future pregnancies.
It is not only during the initial C-section that these risks increase. The risks are greater for any subsequent cesarean births as well.