Working to Reduce Elective C-Sections

Caesarean section
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

A C-section is sometimes a medical necessary. In some cases, however, the procedure is more or less elective. While it’s somewhat hard to understand why someone would choose to have abdominal surgery when it’s not necessary is a bit confusing, the fact is some women feel safer with a C-section.

A group of hospitals in Oregon – including all of the birthing hospitals located in Portland – have made some strides to reduce elective C-sections, at least in earlier pregnancies. These 17 hospitals have put a stop to C-sections that aren’t medically necessary before the 39th week of pregnancy.

Why stop early C-sections

Early C-sections are becoming more and more common. Women schedule the delivery of their baby around a particular schedule, or to make sure that their doctor isn’t on vacation. Currently, about 18 percent of all live births happen in weeks 37 and 38 of pregnancy and are elective C-sections. That’s a staggering number.

While full term delivery is considered between 37 and 41 weeks,  the March of Dimes has advocated for this change. They cite recent studies that show just how much development happens in those final few weeks in the womb. Specifically, major organs like the brain, lungs, and liver all undergo significant development.

By having an early elective C-section, women are putting their babies at risk. Some of the health risks can include:

  • Jaundice
  • Body temperature instability
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Failure to thrive
  • Poor weight gain

Once you get past 39 weeks, the risks of these things all drop significantly. It’s no wonder that the group is opposed to the practice.

A growing movement

The March of Dimes has been pushing for this kind of change around the nation. Thus far, they’ve convinced a number of hospitals in four other states to ban early elective C-sections. This group of hospitals in Oregon is the biggest number so far, and represents a huge gain for the group.

So, what do you think? Should more hospitals join this trend against having early elective C-sections?

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