Mom-Requested C-Sections on the Rise

Elective cesarean section rates increasing in many countries

Once the delivery option of last resort, C-sections now appear to be all the rage. But the jury is still out on whether that's a good thing.

A new study from Germany found that C-sections are on the rise worldwide because — despite the risks — many women are opting for the procedure over a natural birth.

"Scientific progress, social and cultural changes, and, in particular, legal change have led to a fundamental change in attitudes to cesarean section among patients and doctors," wrote authors Ioannis Mylonas, MD, PhD, and Klaus Friese, MD, of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitäte.

A C-section is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made through a mother's abdomen and uterus to deliver a baby.

Traditionally, C-sections were reserved for scenarios when vaginal delivery would put the baby's or mother's health or life at risk.

Today, the procedure is much less dangerous — but is not without its risks.

C-sections can result in blood loss, infections and anesthesia complications for the mother.

Some babies born by C-section may also have an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as asthma and diabetes.

Drs. Mylonas and Friese looked at multiple studies on why C-section rates have gone up worldwide.

No differences in health outcomes between babies born by C-section and those born vaginally were found.

Possible reasons for the increase include fertility treatments, women having babies at older ages and the mother’s preference.

In Germany alone, 15.1 percent of babies were born by C-section in 1991. That number increased to 30.7 percent in 2012.

However, the researchers note only 10 percent of those procedures were medically necessary.

In 2012, C-section rates were at 25 percent in Europe, 31 percent in Central America and 32.2 percent in the US.

Drs. Mylonas and Friese caution that "Cesarean section is associated with increased risks to both mother and child [and] should only be performed when it is clearly advantageous."

This study was published in the August issue of the German Medical Association's journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

No funding sources or conflicts of interests were disclosed.