Empowering mothers is something we feel strongly about. The fact of the matter is that in the US, women have a one in three chance of caesarean birth. This major abdominal surgery is a reality for one third of us. The rate of caesarean deliveries is an astounding 30%. The World Health Organization recommends that it be between 10 and 15%. Making sure you are well informed can help you avoid having repeat caesarean unnecessarily. I hope this information will be a starting pad for your research. Through spreading this information I hope we can all bring down this caesarean rate, and see more VBAC and HBAC (homebirth after caesarean) in our future.
If you have questions about VBAC (vee-back) check out Childbirth Connection.
Know your rights. The VBAC checklist from the International Caesarean Awareness Network will help you gather the data you need to make informed decisions.
Here is a state by state VBAC Hospital Summary
Reasons for the Rising Cesarean Section Rate -from Childbirth Connection
The following interconnected factors appear to be pushing the cesarean rate upward.
Low priority of enhancing women’s own abilities to give birth
Care that supports physiologic labor, such as providing continuous support during labor through a doula or other companion and using hands-to-belly movements to turn a breech (buttocks- or feet-first) baby to a head-first position, reduces the likelihood of a cesarean section. The decision to switch to cesarean is often made when caregivers could use watchful waiting, positioning and movement, comfort measures, oral nourishment and other approaches to facilitating labor progress. The cesarean section rate could be greatly lowered through such care.
Side effects of common labor interventions
Current research suggests that some labor interventions make a c-section more likely. For example, labor induction among first-time mothers when the cervix is not soft and ready to open appears to increase the likelihood of cesarean birth. Continuous electronic fetal monitoring has been associated with greater likelihood of a cesarean. Having an epidural early in labor or without a high-dose boost of synthetic oxytocin (“Pitocin”) seems to increase the likelihood of a c-section.
Refusal to offer the informed choice of vaginal birth
Many health professionals and/or hospitals are unwilling to offer the informed choice of vaginal birth to women in certain circumstances. The Listening to Mothers survey found that many women with a previous cesarean would have liked the option of a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) but did not have it because health professionals and/or hospitals were unwilling (Declercq et al. 2006a). Nine out of ten women with a previous cesarean section are having repeat cesareans in the current environment. Similarly, few women with a fetus in a breech position have the option to plan a vaginal birth.
Casual attitudes about surgery and cesarean sections in particular
Our society is more tolerant than ever of surgical procedures, even when not medically needed. This is reflected in the comfort level that many health professionals, insurance plans, hospital administrators and women themselves have with cesarean trends.
Limited awareness of harms that are more likely with cesarean section
Cesarean section is a major surgical procedure that increases the likelihood of many types of harm for mothers and babies in comparison with vaginal birth. Short-term harms for mothers include increased risk of infection, surgical injury, blood clots, emergency hysterectomy, intense and longer-lasting pain, going back into the hospital and poor overall functioning. Babies born by cesarean section are more likely to have surgical cuts, breathing problems, difficulty getting breastfeeding going, and asthma in childhood and beyond. Perhaps due to the common surgical side effect of “adhesion” formation, cesarean mothers are more likely to have ongoing pelvic pain, to experience bowel blockage, to be injured during future surgery, and to have future infertility. Of special concern after cesarean are various serious conditions for mothers and babies that are more likely in future pregnancies, including ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa, placenta accreta, placental abruption, and uterine rupture (Childbirth Connection 2006).
Providers’ fears of malpractice claims and lawsuits
Given the way that our legal, liability insurance, and health insurance systems work, caregivers may feel that performing a cesarean reduces their risk of being sued or losing a lawsuit, even when vaginal birth is optimal care.
Incentives to practice in a manner that is efficient for providers
Many health professionals are feeling squeezed by tightened payments for services and increasing practice expenses. The flat “global fee” method of paying for childbirth does not provide any extra pay for providers who patiently support a longer vaginal birth. Some payment schedules pay more for cesarean than vaginal birth. A planned cesarean section is an especially efficient way for professionals to organize hospital work, office work and personal life. Average hospital charges are much greater for cesarean than vaginal birth, and may offer hospitals greater scope for profit.
All of these factors contribute to a current national cesarean section rate of over 30%, despite evidence that a rate of 5% to 10% would be optimal.
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