C-Sections Might Be Too Common

Cesarean sections should only be performed when medically necessary, according to WHO

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The C-section has become extremely common in the US, but new evidence suggests that this might be dangerous to women and babies in some cases.

In a new report, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that cesarean sections (C-sections) should only be performed when medically necessary.

"Since 1985, the international healthcare community has considered the ideal rate for caesarean sections to be between 10 percent and 15 percent," according to the report. "Since then, caesarean sections have become increasingly common in both developed and developing countries."

C-sections are procedures to deliver babies in which the baby is surgically removed through the mother's abdomen. C-sections are usually performed due to some problem with delivery. These problems can include the baby being in an abnormal position or displaying signs of distress, among others.

When needed, the procedure can save the lives of both mothers and babies. C-sections are often thought to be safe. However, the WHO explained that in cases where C-sections are not needed, they haven't been shown to help women or infant mortality rates. They may even do harm.

"As with any surgery, caesarean sections are associated with short and long term risk which can extend many years beyond the current delivery and affect the health of the woman, her child, and future pregnancies," according to the WHO report.

Recovery from C-sections is often longer than the time required after giving birth vaginally. And mothers who have had C-sections may have trouble giving vaginal birth later.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates of C-sections in the US have far exceeded the WHO's ideal rate of between 10 and 15 percent of births. The CDC estimated that in 2013, 32.7 percent of births in the US were delivered by C-section.

So why are rates increasing? There may be many reasons, and they may vary across location and culture.

"Some of the most omnipresent reasons behind this rise are the fear of pain during birth including the pain of uterine contractions, the convenience to schedule the birth when it is most suitable for families or health care professionals, or because it is perceived as being less traumatic for the baby," according to this report.

Despite the concern about rising rates of C-sections, WHO stressed the importance of handling each birth on a case-by-case basis and called for a universal classification system to better assess C-section rates across the globe.

"Every effort should be made to provide caesarean sections to women in need, rather than striving to achieve a specific rate," according to the WHO report.

This report was published online April 10. The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
April 17, 2015
Last Updated:
April 20, 2015