Are Women Undergoing Too Many C-Sections?

The rate of Caesarean sections has increased nearly fivefold in the past three decades, leading many to question whether having a C-section is always a healthier option for mom and baby. Although Caesareans can be a truly lifesaving intervention should complications arise, many times the surgery is performed for reasons that make much less sense. Although C-sections accounted for less than five percent of deliveries in 1970, that number is fast approaching thirty percent today. Many doctors simply prefer the convenience of a C-section as opposed to spending many hours with a woman in labor, especially a first-time mother. Thanks in part to the large number of women in the workforce, many women are electing to have a Caesarean section simply as a means of working around an overburdened schedule. Penciling in a delivery on a crowded calendar allows some control over time spent away from work or home obligations.

Second Time Around

Many women still believe that if they had a C-section the first time, they have no choice with their next baby, and over sixty percent of mothers undergo unnecessary second-time Caesarean sections while more than ten percent of first time mothers have C-sections which could have been avoided. What many women-and their doctors-overlook, is that a C-section is considered major surgery, and, like all major surgeries, carries significant risks. Following a Caesarean a woman may have extreme bleeding, infection, or even blood clots, and even in absence of serious complications, most women are so sore for weeks following the surgery that lifting their new baby can be agonizing. For second time moms, the likelihood that you can successfully have a vaginal birth following a C-section are excellent-nearly seventy-five percent of those who attempt a vaginal birth will have no problems, and the birth will be a total success.

The huge increase in lawsuits filed against doctors for birth trauma or other issues caused during normal delivery has also led doctors to order a C-section at the first sign of mother or fetal distress. Fear of lawsuits is a powerful motivator for doctors, leading them to high-intervention practices such as Caesarean sections even when the risk of a normal vaginal birth is relatively low. Malpractice insurance is an inordinately large part of a physician's overhead, as are lawsuits filed when a normal delivery goes wrong. For some doctors, allowing a woman who appears to be in minor distress to deliver vaginally is simply too big a risk for their practice. Additionally, many doctors find that regular vaginal births significantly cut into their profit margin by forcing them to cancel patients in their office in order to deliver a baby who has no notion of scheduling conflicts. Scheduling births means fewer hours spent being woken up in the middle of the night or on weekends to deliver a baby as well, meaning many physicians are scheduling C-sections simply as a convenience factor, disregarding the benefits of allowing women to deliver vaginally whenever possible.

If you are newly pregnant, it's a good idea to discuss the possibility of a potential Caesarean section thoroughly prior to the time when you may find yourself being wheeled into surgery, maybe even against your wishes. Make sure you and your doctor are both on the same page regarding how you feel about a C-section, and the chances are much better that you can avoid an unnecessary surgery.

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