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C-Section Twice As Likely When Doctors Induce Labor

A study released yesterday in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology confirms one thing we already knew:  the rate of cesarean births is rising–it has doubled since 1996 and now accounts for one third of all births in the U.S.

What it also shows is that elective c-sections aren’t the culprit.  Only nine percent of scheduled cesareans are performed for non-medical reasons (making them truly elective).  The real rise in c-sections may be due to the practice of inducing labor before baby and mom are really ready.

The study of 230,000 deliveries shows that moms who are induced are twice as likely to have a cesarean birth as moms whose labor starts spontaneously.  And after labor does start, almost half of c-sections happen because of “failure to progress.”  Research seems to show that inducing, even when baby is considered full term, carries certain risks.  But lots of doctors choose to do it anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with choosing a c-section–the problem here is that moms who don’t want a c-section are ending up with one anyway.

The study suggests that doctors don’t let labor follow its natural course, which, especially for a first time mom, is often long and difficult.  Whether it’s for convenience sake, or because they just don’t see any reason not to, many doctors speed labor along and, as the study mentions, shift into c-section mode before mom reaches six centimeters.

The authors of the study suggest that when mom and baby are healthy, doctors should wait and let labor take its natural course to help decrease the rate of c-sections overall.

I agree, but then again, c-sections are safe and turn out well for most moms.  What seems off to me is that moms aren’t usually warned that induction raises the likelihood of a c-section. Is it the doctor’s responsibility to tell a mom who wants a vaginal birth that giving labor a jump start might make it less likely to turn out that way?

Image: Flickr/jcgoforth

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