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Unnecessary C-Sections?

Posted on June 9, 2010

We’ve come to think of them as a routine way to deliver babies, but C-sections or cesarean sections are a major surgery where a doctor cuts through a woman’s abdomen and uterus to deliver a baby. The woman must remain in the hospital for awhile as she tries to get out of bed to walk, which at first, is extremely painful. Estimates say that up to one-third of New York C-sections are unnecessary.

The rate of cesarean sections is increasing annually — from over 10% in 1975 to the highest rate ever in 2007 – 31.8%. Besides the danger of major surgery to women, a government study from 1999 to 2002 finds an increase in neonatal mortality of 69% following C-section births compared to vaginal delivery. That translated to 17,000 infant deaths in the U.S.

The Health Research Group at Public Citizen is alarmed at the trend and is encouraging women not to put themselves through unnecessary surgery and risk potential birth injury, unless there is an emergency.

In an article in Public Citizen News, the authors say that doctors should encourage VBACS’s or a vaginal birth after C-section. Traditionally it was thought that, once a C-section, always a C-section, out of fear of a ruptured uterus, but the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology revised those guidelines six years ago. In fact, some hospitals believe a VBAC is safer than enduring more C-sections.

Dr. Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen encourages the use of midwives for low-risk woman. Midwives can deliver in a hospital or at home and are less likely to turn to surgical intervention.

A doula, or labor support professional, is also someone who will advocate for the patient and deter unnecessary C-sections, says Wolfe. And in the old adage, follow the money trail — doctors make more money when they perform a C-section, and they take less time.