c section rates showing no real signs of declining

Four years ago, the World Health Organization released a groundbreaking report examining the rate at which Cesarean sections were being performed around the globe. Somewhat shockingly, the WHO report determined that as many as 69 countries had a C-section rate that exceeded what the agency defined as an otherwise acceptable rate of 15 percent of total births.

Regarding the United States, the WHO report found that we ranked third for the highest number of medically unnecessary C-sections, costing over $685 million in unnecessary costs in 2008 alone.

As shocking as this report proved to be, it has resulted in virtually no change here in the U.S. Indeed, statistics show that the rate of C-sections has actually crept even higher in recent years with the rate now sitting at one out of every three births.

While there is no disputing that C-sections can and do save lives, they are not without risks to both mother and baby. Indeed, mothers are at risk of developing everything from surgical infections to internal bleeding, while babies are at risk of developing everything from allergies to respiratory issues.

Why then is the rate of C-sections still so high here in the U.S.?

As we’ve touched on in previous posts, experts theorize that the rapid and sustained increase in the number of C-sections being performed in U.S. hospitals can be traced to everything from larger profits for hospitals and ease of scheduling to delivery predictability and protection from potential medical malpractice lawsuits.

The good news to all this, however, is that hospitals across the nation are taking note of the problem and introducing steps to help lower C-section rates, such as increasing training for delivery room staff and implementing safety rounds to reinforce delivery room decisions.

Furthermore, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued joint guidelines earlier this year calling for greater restraint to be shown by physicians before deciding to undertake a C-section.

“The publication of this new guideline is trying to suggest to obstetricians to handle things a little differently,” said one CDC official. “Certainly it’s easier for them and more profitable to turn to a C-section. But I’m hoping with the publication of these new guidelines that maybe they can back off of those stances.”

It will be interesting to see whether hospitals and physicians do heed these guidelines, such that the C-section rate finally begins to decline after several decades. Given the potential risks accompanying this major surgical procedure, we can only hope this proves to be the case.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you suffered a serious injury due to what you would believe was OB/GYN malpractice.

Source: Public Radio International, “Why are Cesarean sections so common when most agree they shouldn’t be?” Tory Starr, May 12, 2014

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