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A cesarean section is also known as a C-section. It is the alternative for mothers having difficulty with vaginal birth. This invasive surgical procedure carries increased mortality issues and C-section injury may occur without warning. The mother and infant are both at risk of C-section injury. Mothers planning for elective or unnecessary cesarean sections should reconsider vaginal birth.

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C-Section Statistics

The maternal death rate of C-sections is 3 times that of vaginal delivery. Women requiring C-sections may be prone to injury, since a C-section is typically offered in times of emergency. This may account for a portion of the heightened maternal fatality risk. However, a cesarean section is a serious surgical procedure. C-section injury consequences should be discussed thoroughly between the expecting parents and medical provider.

Other cesarean section statistics include:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends all countries to have a C-section rate of lower than 15%.
  • The C-section rates of the United States were 31.8% as of 2007.
  • The C-section injury rates have increased with the rate of C-section procedures in the US.
  • Approximately 82% of all women who elect to have a C-section once will have a repeat C-section.
  • The risk of placenta accreta increases from .13% to well over 6.74% as a woman elects to have more C-sections in later pregnancies.
  • A C-section costs approximately twice as much as vaginal birth, and a C-section injury will increase this amount.
  • Studies show that epidural anesthesia increases the need for emergency C-sections in mothers carrying their first child.
  • A C-section results in approximately twice as much maternal blood loss as a vaginal birth.

Types of Cesarean Sections

Whether elective or unplanned, a C-section procedure is typically performed in one of two ways. The incision may be made longitudinally, which allows for the largest space to remove the infant. A longitudinal incision carries greater risk of maternal C-section injury and is not a common practice in the United States. A lower uterine segment section is done transversely and carries a lower risk of maternal C-section injury. If the cesarean section procedure is repeated with later pregnancies, the incision will be made over the previous scar.

C-Section Injury Risks

A maternal C-section injury may cause complications such as:

  • Excessive vaginal bleeding
  • Greater chance of developing anemia
  • Possible removal of uterus, due to excessive bleeding
  • Increased possibility of blood clots, placing mother at risk of death if clot reaches lungs
  • Skin infection, may be avoidable through the use of antibiotics
  • Uterine infection, commonly occurring in conjunction with skin infection
  • Urinary or bladder injury, possibly involving ureters or kidneys
  • Bowel injury, through perforation or burns, may lead to life-threatening illness if unnoticed
  • Possible delay in breastfeeding and other maternal bonding experiences
  • Possible permanent incontinence
  • Prolonged hospital stay
  • Prolonged catheter insertions
  • Greater need for anesthesia and pain medications

Complications for Later Pregnancies

Risks for later pregnancies are heightened by initial C-section deliveries, and they involve:

  • Malpresentation, or any fetal position other than “head-first”
  • Prolonged labor, which may cause new medical issues
  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Placenta previa, where the placenta attaches near or covers the cervix
  • Placenta accreta, a life-threatening issue where the placenta attaches deep into the uterine wall
  • Uterine rupture
  • Stillbirth

 

Sources:

Boschert, Sherry. “C-section for obstructed labor linked to incontinence. (Lower Risk with Elective C-Section).” OB GYN News 15 May 2003: 8. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 July 2012.
Stalburg, Caren M. “‘Doctor, I want a C-section.’ How should you respond? Is she motivated by a fear of childbirth or a true wish for C-section? Here’s how to identify candidates.” OBG Management May 2008: 58+. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 July 2012.
Sullivan, Michele G. “C-section linked to stillbirth in next pregnancy. (Adjusted Relative Risk of 1.67-2.57).” OB GYN News 15 May 2003: 4. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 July 2012.
Waetjen, Elaine L. “Elective C-Section Revisited.” OB GYN News 1 Aug. 2001: 4. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 July 2012.