The c-section rate has been steadily climbing over the last decade around the globe, and experts have tried to pinpoint a reason for the increase. It’s no secret that unnecessary birth intervention has been linked to the escalating rate of cesareans. Additionally, your biggest risk of having a c-section may be the hospital at which you deliver. But a new study is highlighting another reason for the climb in cesareans: fear of litigation. Doctors may push for c-sections out of perceived safety concerns and the fear of being sued should something go wrong.

Researchers at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin have found that fear of litigation is a driving force behind c-sections.

It’s been proven that vaginal births are safer and have fewer complications (not to mention an easier recovery!). So why are doctors pushing c-sections so much? According to this study, they may be afraid of being sued. Researchers reviewed 34 international studies conducted in 20 different countries. They found that “clinicians’ beliefs” are the main factor influencing a provider’s decision to perform a c-section. The beliefs cited were related to their personal preferences (the doctor’s, not the mother’s), as well as an overestimation of risk associated with vaginal births and VBACs. Also, the providers believed c-sections to be the safer, more convenient option.

Trinity researchers reviewed literature describing the beliefs of over 9,000 doctors and midwives.

The literature was obtained from research conducted over a 24-year period, from 1992 to 2016. It really highlights how much the provider’s beliefs and desires influence the c-section rate. Sunita Panda is a PhD candidate and Health Research Board Research Fellow at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity. Panda says, “Caesarean section rates are increasing worldwide, particularly among first-time mothers, with limited explanation of the factors that influence the rising trend. This is a big concern for health care professionals because vaginal birth is safer and associated with fewer complications. Our research is the first systematic review of international research on the topic and it gives important insight into the ‘why’ behind the rising rate of CS. Our study identified the significant influence of ‘fear of litigation’ on clinicians’ decision to perform CS, irrespective of hospital setting, age, gender, professional experience, resources and culture within the health care system.”

The findings are troubling, to say the least. Whether or not a woman has a c-section should never be determined by a doctor’s desire for a quick fix. Certainly, our country has become quite litigious. But pressuring a woman into unnecessary surgery has immense consequences.

(Image: iStock / oceandigital)