According to a survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), C-sections are on the rise. China has the highest rate of cesarean birth in the world with almost half of all babies there being delivered by C-section. A quarter of these are not deemed medically necessary. In a report published in the medical journal The Lancet, the WHO stated that unnecessary C-sections are not only more expensive than natural births, but also raise the risk of complications for the mother. It called the C-section rate epidemic in many countries worldwide.

Worldwide Demand For C-sections

As in the United States, Chinese women perceive the procedure to be safe. China News Daily reported this week that in recent years, as income and access to advanced medical care in China have grown, so has the demand for C-sections. Some women prefer the procedure to natural birth because want to avoid the pain of labor or choose a lucky birthday. Zhang Lin, a Beijing mother of a 2-year-old girl born by cesarean told the newspaper, "The doctor told me that cesarean was convenient and painless and would be quicker compared with natural birth. So naturally I chose cesarean."

Naturally.

Dr. He Yuanhua, at Capital Antai Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital in Beijing,  who did not participate in the study, is concerned.

"So many pregnant women ask for a cesarean birth in China, but we always suggest that they have a natural birth. It's bad to have so many cesarean births because natural birth is the ideal way."

C-Sections: The Safe Bet That Costs More

The report states that U.S. C-sections are also at a high at 31%. Latin America’s rate is 35%. Convenience and the myth of complete safety contribute to the rates, but so does the healthcare industry’s incentive. Hospitals can’t help but be motivated by the high payouts for cesarean birth. The WHO study put the rate of hospitals motivated by money at over 60%.

The Associated Press reported that some doctors may be increasing their C-section rates out of fear of malpractice if something should go wrong during a natural birth.

"The relative safety of the operation leads people to think it's as safe as vaginal birth," said Dr. A. Metin Gulmezoglu, who co-authored the Asia report. "That's unlikely to be the case."

Risks Associated With C-sections

As a two-time veteran of medically necessary C-section, I can tell you the success side of the story, but operation does not come without risk. Just a few of the complications associated with C-sections include:

  • Maternal death
  • Infection
  • Blood loss
  • Admission to intensive care
  • Decreased bowel function
  • Hysterectomy
  • Reactions to anesthesia
  • Infant respiratory problems

Bottom line: A C-section is major abdominal surgery, not to be taken lightly. And believe me, after doing my best and still ending up under the knife twice I understand the disbelief that a baby could actually be born naturally. But it happens, every day. It’s what we were built for.