Cesarean deliveries and medical malpractice

In the years between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of births done by C-section rose from 27 percent to 34 percent according to a recent study. Among the potential reasons cited for this increase was the fear of a medical malpracticesuit for failure to do a cesarean section. The study has raised concerns that doctors are pursuing C-sections too frequently, and not in response to the correct factors that call for the surgical procedure. The potential for damage to mothers and their infants cannot be underestimated.

Cesarean delivery poses a number of risks for mothers. These risks include blood clots, infection and internal injuries. Women who undergo a C-section face longer recovery times. The procedure is particularly risky for obese women. Paradoxically, some doctors cite obesity as a maternal risk factor that causes them to pursue a C-section.

C-sections also pose risks to the infant. Most doctors agree that a full-term delivery is optimal. Fetuses continue to develop until the day of delivery and important changes in the lungs, brain and kidneys occur late in the process. Breathing difficulties and even death can result from a child not reaching full term. When pursued for the right reasons, a C-section can reduce risk to mother and infant. When entered into blindly, or for the wrong reasons, a C-section can expose new mothers and their children to needless risk, sometimes with tragic consequences.

The report analyzed a number of issues involving hospital births and the complications that can arise. According to the report, if all hospitals were as good as the highest rated hospitals, complications during the birth process could be reduced by more than 30 percent. Complications during any gynecologic surgery could be reduced by as much as 35 percent.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “C-Section Rate in U.S. Climbs to All-Time High: Report,” Steven Reinberg, 9 July 2011.