According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the c-section rate for low-risk first-time mothers should be around 15.5 percent, but the overall rate is more than twice that number. Cesarean sections are performed for many reasons. Because giving birth surgically carries more risks than taking a more natural approach, it is important that women understand their options.
Pregnant women often look forward to the day of their delivery with excitement and a little nervousness. At their first prenatal appointment, they are given a due date that allows them and their doctors to monitor the developing baby and plan for the future. They may even create elaborate plans that outline the interventions they want, their preferred attendants and other details. Few expect to have to make backup plans in case of surgery.
After all, a cesarean section is a major abdominal surgery with all the accompanying risks. Women may be facing additional complications, including deep vein thrombosis, hemorrhage, infection and hysterectomy. Cesarians are also far more expensive, costing as much as 60 percent more than natural birth. The health issues can continue long after the baby has gone home. A woman who has had one or more previous cesareans is at an increased risk of miscarriage, placenta accreta and uterine rupture.
Many factors go into needing a c-section, including advanced maternal age, pregnancy with multiples and obesity, but the studies show that even women in low-risk categories are at risk. In a recent study, nearly 63 percent of low-risk women at one hospital had cesarean sections compared to a mere 10-percent rate at another hospital. Unfortunately, some hospitals mandate repeat sections, which means that these women may never deliver vaginally and must face increasing risks with each subsequent child.
Medical reasons for cesareans include known health problems with the baby, a mother with a condition that would be aggravated by labor, placenta previa, maternal HIV infection, a mother with active genital herpes lesions or a multiple pregnancy. Cesareans undeniable save lives, but they are also frequently overused.
If you are pregnant, you may be able to reduce your risk of undergoing this painful procedure. Visit your doctor according to your recommended schedule, and eat a balanced diet. Exercise regularly, and focus on keeping any pre-existing conditions that you have under control. Talk to your doctor and your partner about your preferences and expectations for your birth experience, and choose a hospital with a low primary section rate. Being proactive about your health may not eliminate your risk, but it can reduce it.