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Old 09-13-2012  
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Default Understanding Cesarean Section Rates

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), optimal rates for C-sections is between 5 and 10%, which offers the best outcome for both mothers and children. They found that rates higher than 15% do more harm than good. In 1965, the first year the national cesarean section rates were monitored, this rate was at 4.5%. Today, a growing number of healthy, low-risk women are choosing to have an C-section. In 2010, the cesarean section rate was at 32.8%.

Why are Cesarean Section Rates so High?
Many people believe the rate is so high because more women are choosing C-sections with no medical need, because the number of women genuinely requiring a C-section is rising and liability pressures from doctors and hospitals is making this number go up. Still, these factors don’t seem to account for the increase in the rate since 1996. Here’s a look at the many reasons for high cesarean section rates in the United States.

Reasons for High Cesarean Section Rates
  • Failure to encourage a woman’s ability to give birth naturally. The use of manually moving breech babies to a heads-first position can reduce the likelihood of a C-section, as well as physiologic labor support, mid-wife support and doula care. More C-sections could be avoided by adopting these practices.
  • Side effects of labor intervention. Labor induction, which is often used among first-time moms when their cervix is not open and soft, greatly contributes to the likelihood of a C-section. Early epidurals, continuous electronic monitoring and epidural analgesia all contribute to a C-section after perceived fetal distress.
  • No informed choice for vaginal birth. Many hospitals and doctors also refuse to give informed choice of vaginal birth to women with certain conditions, including women who have had a previous C-section or a baby in a breech position.
  • Casual views of surgery. Americans have also come to view surgery casually, even when it isn’t necessary. Cesarean section rates vary around the country, which shows a difference in practice, not need of mothers.
  • Limited knowledge of risks. Like any major surgery, a C-section carries a wide range of risks to both mother and child. These risks include infection, blood clots, emergency hysterectomies, intense pain and long recovery. Babies born by C-section may also have difficulty breastfeeding, breathing issues, surgical cuts and asthma.
  • Incentive toward efficient practices. Many doctors are also forced to choose C-sections because it’s a more efficient choice under most health care insurance plans.
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