Elective C-sections: Convenient or chancy?

A new study suggests there are increased health risks with planned cesarean deliveries.

Published February 13, 2007 10:50PM (EST)

On the medical front, a major study was just published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal about increased health risks associated with elective cesarean deliveries.

The study's authors analyzed data from Canadian births from 1991 to 2005 and compared the health outcomes of 2,292,420 planned vaginal deliveries with those of 46,766 cesarean deliveries for breech cases (in which the fetus presents feet first). Breech presentations are riskier for the baby but not for the mother, so these cases were taken as a substitute "planned cesarean group" for the purposes of the study.

They found that the rate of "severe morbidity" for the mothers (including serious infection and blood clots) was nine per 1,000 births for the vaginal deliveries and 27.3 per 1,000 for the cesarean births.

The study's results gain more importance when you consider that more and more women are opting for elective cesareans. According to CBC News, C-sections would make up 15 percent of Canada's deliveries if they were performed solely for medical reasons, but in 2003 the rate was over 25 percent "and rising."

Sure, there are many justified reasons for C-section deliveries, but in cases where it's simply a matter of convenience, this study's results are worth keeping in mind.

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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