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Risks and Benefits of the C-Section

Kingston Personal Injury Attorney

Last year, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported that rates of caesarean sections (C-sections) continue to rise. According to data collected from 2007, over one million C-sections were performed and that number accounted for almost 32 percent of all births for that year. April is Caesarean Awareness Month, and in early April 2011, the ACOG continued to voice concerns about the increased reliance on this invasive procedure, as well as the potential for increased risks for mothers and children in terms of birth injuries.

The C-section procedure began to enjoy overwhelming success in the 20th century and is considered one of the major achievements in modern medicine. Credited with saving countless lives of mothers and babies, C-sections are generally considered in cases where there are multiple births, a failure for labor to progress, fetal distress, maternal distress, prior history of Caesarean birth, and specific requests by pregnant mothers. The procedure can reduce the risk of fetal death, the invasive nature of the procedure can lead to other problems.

For mothers, C-sections increase the risk for subsequent uterine ruptures and uterine abnormalities; they also increase the risk of future placental abnormalities, surgical complications – such as bleeding, infection and hysterectomy – and death. For babies, the risks include premature delivery, infections, blood sugar problems, birth injury, respiratory issues and low Apgar scores. Recently, medical researchers have noted increased incidences of cerebral palsy and cognitive impairments associated with low Apgar scores.

While the ACOG publishes guidelines regarding C-section deliveries, the National Institute of Health urges doctors and facilities to rethink policies that prevent mothers from attempting subsequent vaginal births after previous C-section deliveries. Also consistent with research linking inductions to higher incidents of C-section births, the ACOG recommends that doctors do not induce in pregnancies 39 weeks or less. The real focus in these cases is injury prevention.

While technology and study have made C-sections safer, potential dangers to mothers and babies require the medical community to consider not recommending the C-section procedure in cases where it is not warranted. Better patient education is a start. For years, many believed that revised insurance payment policies and malpractice reform might offer a solution as well. With policy shifts and increased awareness, a pregnant mother can avoid an unnecessary C-section – if the circumstances, after weighed by her obstetrician or other health care professional, do not truly call for one.