Giving birth in the United States has reached a new point of concern as more and more complications threaten the lives of both babies and mothers. According to the World Health Organization, C-sections are only necessary in no more than 5 percent to 15 percent of all deliveries. Yet, one in three births now occurs via c-section, making a cesarean the most popular form of surgery in America — but also not the most conducive to a healthful outcome.
C-sections are often being performed for the sake of convenience, either for the doctor or mother, or for other elective purposes. According to The Los Angeles Times, “caesarean-section births [are] a major contributor to the disturbing trend” of mother mortality which has been on the rise in the United States in recent years. In 2010, a study of the maternal mortality rate ranked America as 39th in a global ranking of other countries.
At the same time, elective c-sections and induced labors are posing more risks to babies. Doctors are delivering infants prior to 39 weeks, which can impede development to their lungs, brain, and kidneys. Delivering babies that early can also pose risks like respiratory distress, jaundice, infection, low blood sugar, extra days in the neonatal intensive care unit, and even deaths of newborn babies as well as older older infants.
Aside from c-sections being more appealing to hospitals because of the low risk of liability and lower costs to resources, other factors such as the health and ages of birthing women also call for the surgery. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women between the ages of 40 and 44 represent the only age bracket in which the birth rate is growing. This “advanced maternal age,” according to msnbc also accounts for higher blood pressure. Escalating rates of obesity in women are also considered threatening to both mother and baby in labor, and so c-sections are performed to minimize risk.
Needless to say, it’s suddenly quite dangerous to be an expectant mother in the United States. Even if you’re a relatively young mother in good health with little inherent risk for complication, there is still a one and three chance that (if you’re birthing in a hospital), a doctor will convince you to deliver via c-section despite that the procedure may not be medically necessary. This major abdominal surgery, despite its commonality, poses a lot of the same risks that other surgeries do but the effects to baby can be lifelong and for the mother — sometimes fatal.
Yet all of this surmounts in a time in which telemedicine abortions have been deemed safe — a process that allows a physician to supervise a terminated pregnancy with the drug RU-486 remotely. Patients seeking to end their pregnancy visit a physician who, after performing the sonogram, administers the drugs. The patient takes them at home and is then counseled virtually.
I find it quite perplexing that we have the science to deal with one realm of women’s health care so sufficiently, effectively, and even remotely — yet the birthing of babies still presents pronounced risks to the health of women and babies. This schism in the quality of care exposes much about the shifting trends in birthing women, but also about the priorities of hospitals when assisting in labor. Fear of malpractice might be common component in choosing c-sections, but keeping delivering women on a set schedule, as opposed to permitting natural labor, is posing even more health problems.