Cesarean: Your Cesarean Fact Sheet

These facts are presented by the ICEA Cesarean Options committee with the hope that parents, childbirth educators, nurses, midwives and doctors together can effectively reduce the rate of unnecessary cesarean sections and consequently, their effects.

A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery. When a cesarean is necessary, it can be a life saving technique for both mother and infant.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that no region in the world is justified in having a cesarean rate greater than 10 to 15 percent.

In the past twenty years, the cesarean section rates have nearly quintupled in the US to 23.8% in 1989 and nearly quadrupled in Canada to 18.3% in 1987-8.

A cesarean section poses documented medical risks to the mother's health, including infections, hemorrhage, transfusion, injury to other organs, anesthesia complications, psychological complications, and a maternal mortality two to four times greater than that for a vaginal birth.

An elective cesarean section increases the risk to the infant of premature birth and respiratory distress syndrome, both of which are associated with multiple complications, intensive care and burdensome financial costs. Even mature babies, the absences of labor increases the risk of breathing problems and other complications.

Cesareans can delay the opportunity for early mother-newborn interaction, breastfeeding and the establishment of family bonds.

In the US and Canada, over one-third of all cesareans are repeat cesareans. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that the concept of routine repeat cesarean be replaced by a specific indication for surgery, and that most women can be counseled and encouraged to labor and have a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC).

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