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.
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
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.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
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