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More cesarean sections don't add up to safer deliveries

Many of our readers may be surprised to learn that the most-frequently-performed type of major surgery in our country is a cesarean section. About one in every three babies are delivered via C-section. There are some circumstances in which a C-section is necessary or at least preferable for the safety of the mother and/or child. Women who are older, overweight, diabetic or have high blood pressure, for example, may be safer having a C-section. There are other situations, such as when the baby isn't positioned properly for a vaginal birth, where a C-section is necessary.

However, experts say that as many as half of C-sections aren't necessary. Further, a surgical birth carries added risk factors for both mothers and babies. Just as with any a major surgery, a C-section can cause sepsis, organ injury and hemorrhaging.

The numbers don't indicate that the increase in C-sections over the past two decades has decreased neonatal mortality. Further, a doctor who was the lead author on a 2014 study of cesarean births noted that "if anything, we started to see an increase in maternal mortality."

Most women go to the hospital where their obstetrician is on staff or has privileges. However, it's important to research that hospital, not just for C-section rates but to look at other safety ratings. You should also address any concerns that you have with your doctor and find out what steps he or she recommends that the two of you can take to reduce the need for a C-section. If your doctor believes that one is needed, be sure that he or she fully answers all of your questions regarding why it is safer for you and your baby.

Source: Consumer Reports, "Your Biggest C-Section Risk May Be Your Hospital," Tara Haelle, May 16, 2017

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