Fewer C-Sections: Good News for Moms

Stabilizing rates mean fewer delivery complications

woman having a c-section

Some expectant moms dread the idea of a cesarean section, while other women find the idea appealing. They may hope to avoid the pain of labor, cut short an uncomfortable pregnancy or ensure delivery at a time that’s convenient for them and their doctors.

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Wives’ tales are also circulating. People may believe, despite a lack of evidence, that c-sections reduce the likelihood for postpartum depression, sexual dysfunction or pelvic organ prolapse after delivery.

These kinds of attitudes, myths and all, have elevated elective C-sections rates in recent years. In the late 1990s, the rates began to climb and over the next dozen years, they rose 60 percent.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those rates of C-sections are stabilizing – which is good news for moms and their babies.

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C-sections are major abdominal surgery that pose more risks for women and children, including post-delivery pain and complications, especially in later pregnancies.

What’s changed?

  • Doctors are moving away from inducing women at 38 weeks. Inducing delivery early nearly doubles the chance that you’ll end up with a C-section. It can be hard for babies, too — those who arrive on their own at 38 weeks are usually healthy, but babies who are induced before they’re ready are more likely to have underdeveloped lungs and other organs. Babies know when it’s time to arrive better than we do!
  • Vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) is more widely accepted. While it’s true that VBAC poses a higher risk of complications than normal vaginal deliveries, it’s something more women are considering. It’s a matter of balancing the risks of VBAC with the risks of a second (or third) C-section.
  • Fewer first-pregnancy C-sections mean fewer secondary C-sections. With each pregnancy, the risks of complications from C-sections go up, including surgical complications and problems with the placenta.

I tell my patients to listen to their bodies and trust Mother Nature. Those last few weeks of pregnancy can be hard, but it’s the right thing to do for you and your baby to avoid an elective C-section and stick it out to the end.

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It won’t be the last time that your child keeps you waiting!

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Elisa Ross, MD

Elisa Ross, MD, is a obstetrician and gynecologist in Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Health Institute. She loves caring for and educating women.
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