When it comes to rising C-section rates — the most recent available numbers show 32 percent of births in the US are Cesarean — the list of reasons is fairly stable. There are pressures from hospitals that fear law suits, medical interventions like induction, a rise in multiple births, a rise in repeat C-sections, scheduling considerations for doctors and patients, limited training in alternatives to C-section, the list could go on. But a lack of medical research is not usually on the list, and yet that’s just what doctors in England are setting our to change by researching medications that could be used to reduce C-section rates.
According to a story in the Guardian, medical research in obstetrics has been chronically underfunded compared to, say, cardiology. While there are many new heart medications and techniques, there are precious few new choices for preventing C-sections.
The problem with developing any medication the pregnant women might use is pretty straightforward. Because developing fetuses should not be messed with, it’s very difficult to come up with a safe clinical study into what’s helpful and harmful. And yet, just because it’s hard to figure out how to safely develop new medical treatments doesn’t mean no one should try.
As the Guardian story reports, Sue Wray, a professor at the University of Liverpool, has found that high cholesterol increases the risk of emergency C-sections, so statins given late in pregnancy could lower the risk. Drugs that reduce muscle contractions might be used for preterm labor. In other words, there’s a lot of research into how the uterus works that could be done and that would help a lot of women.
While some might object to more research into medicines that might make birth even more medically controlled than it already is, shouldn’t the medical options women have at least be up to date? And if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, would you as a woman about to give birth prefer an intervention that’s a medicine or surgery?
None of this research will bear any fruit for five to ten years at least, giving us plenty of time to figure out how to give women more and better options for giving birth safely.
Photo credit: multicare.org