A recent TV One Health news item speaks of the increased risks of breathing difficulties for babies with elective caesarean sections. Particularly when these are performed early, that is before 39 weeks.
This is information gathered from a large Danish study. They found a nearly fourfold increased risk of breathing difficulties in caesarean babies delivered at 37 weeks, a threefold increase at 38 weeks and a doubled risk at 39 weeks. Babies who have breathing difficulties usually need to be transferred to a special baby unit and are monitored in incubators with oxygen provided. This is another risk which has been identified for women who are choosing or being advised to have an elective caesarean section.
A French study published recently "Postpartum Maternal Mortality and Cesarean Delivery" reported that caesarean section increased the risk of the mother dying after having a baby more than threefold.
This growing evidence of the increased risks to mother and child of having a caesarean section as opposed to a vaginal birth are very concerning as rates of caesarean section continue to rise. Recently published figures from the United States report a 30% national rate of caesarean births. The most recently published national rate in New Zealand was 27% but it is very likely that it too is now 30% or higher.
Can we as a society afford this level of intervention in childbirth.Is this an issue for sustainability? Think of the resources that are involved in this level of intervention/
I am not suggesting that any mother or child be put at risk by withholding necessary medical care and intervention, but where does it stop. Clearly we are not reducing risks for women and children by increasing medical intervention. Instead we are raising risks to the health and wellbeing of the mother and her child.
Can we turn this around? Midwives we need to help and support women to have confidence in their bodies and ability to birth. We need to provide sensitive caring support and information to women. We need to have faith ourselves in the process of birth and to share our faith with women and those who will be supporting them during the birth of the child.