Rising Cesarean Rate May Be to Blame for Surge in Maternal Childbirth Complications

Several online newspapers covered the story today about a study documenting the rise in the rate of severe morbidities in women following delivery during a recent seven year period. The study’s co-author says that some of the complications, such as requiring a blood transfusion, going into shock or developing blood clots may be associated with the rising Cesarean rate.


From the Washington Post:

Although less than 1 percent of women giving birth experience severe complications, a new report shows the rate of such complications increased significantly between 1998 and 2005.


Problems such as blood clots, serious breathing difficulties, shock, kidney failure and the need for blood transfusions rose from 0.64 percent in 1998/1999 to 0.81 percent in 2004/2005.


“Our overall result was that morbidity rates for severe problems are low, but it’s devastating when a mother has severe morbidity, and we did find that the trends were increasing,” said study co-author Dr. Susan Meikle, a medical officer at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md.


Also rising? The number of c-sections performed. The U.S. Cesarean rate has risen more than 50 percent in the last decade.


The Washington Post reports that the need for blood transfusions went up 92 percent between 1998 and 2005. Incidence of pulmonary embolism jumped 52 percent, while women in respiratory distress rose 26 percent and women with post-delivery kidney failure as well as those requiring mechanical ventilation each rose 21 percent.


According to Meikle, rising maternal age was not related to the increase in severe complications.



Additional coverage:

Complications of childbirth increase; researchers blame Cesarean sections (Chicago Tribune)

Severe Obstetric Complications on the Increase (Washington Post)

Rise in US Caesarean procedures may be linked to childbirth complications (The Guardian)


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