The Disadvantage of Elective Caesarean Delivery

August 18, 2010

It's a Woman's Right to Choose How She'll Have Her Baby-Elect a C-Section?

A caesarean birth is one that is performed surgically and involves cutting through the abdominal wall and the uterine wall in order to remove the baby from the mother's womb. This type of delivery was originally used as a life-saving measure in the event of an emergency. Today, more than 30% of live births in the United States are caesarean births, a trend that continues to increase every year. Rather than using this method of delivery for emergencies and necessity, it has become an elective for women who don't want to go through childbirth pains or who have a busy lifestyle and need to fit the birth into their calendar.

In a free country, there is no disputing the rights of a woman to choose how she wants to deliver her baby. However, caesarean delivery has a lot of risk involved and making an informed choice about having this kind of birth involves looking at all of the risks before making the decision to have an elective caesarean birth. According to a study led by Alan T.N. Tita, assistant professor in the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, "Women who choose to have their babies delivered via repeat caesarean at 37 or 38 weeks without a medical or obstetric indication, risk serious complications for their child."

The Serious Risks for the Baby with a Caesarean Delivery

A baby is at risk for several serious complications with a caesarean delivery. If the due date is miscalculated, the baby is born prematurely. It is possible that babies born by caesarean delivery may not have the same beneficial bacteria at birth as babies who are delivered vaginally or naturally. The result is linked to immune related difficulties that develop later in life. Their Apgar scores at birth are lower. It is known that babies born by caesarean delivery are more likely to develop breathing problems, asthma and allergies as they grow older and a child born by caesarean birth has a 20% higher risk of developing diabetes.

Maternal Risks with Caesarean Delivery

The risk for a mother who opts for a caesarean delivery includes the possibilities of complications from the surgical wound, such as adhesions that can cause bowel obstruction and chronic pain. Infections at the incision site, in the uterus and other organs are increased and blood clots in the legs, pelvic organs or lungs are another risk. It's a given that the stay in hospital will be longer than with a vaginal birth and recovery time can be at least six weeks. Getting in and out of bed, and later up and down from the sofa can be very difficult, requiring help in order to feed and change the baby. There is the potential for heavy blood loss that can persist for months at the site of the incision and most distressing is the fact that future pregnancies could be ectopic, with increased chance of placenta previa or placenta accreta in a future pregnancy. Repeated caesareans increases the risk of hemorrhage, meaning being hospitalized again. While rare, death is four times more likely with a caesarean delivery that with a vaginal delivery.

What Prompts a Woman to Have a Caesarean?

So, why do women elect to have a caesarean delivery? Some are groupies, following the lead of film stars or who don't want the pain of labor. Other women don't want to the mess associated with birth, and they don't want their babies heads to be elongated or misshapen. A busy schedule can be accommodated with a planned birth, and that really works for some women.

There are also reasons that lean more to practicality than vanity. Caesareans are now preferred in cases of a breech presentation, if there are multiples (twins or triplets), if the mother is overweight, if she's older, or if there is a fear of pelvic prolapse. While a caesarean may be used in these instances, it isn't always necessary. Women can deliver vaginally in almost all of these situations.

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