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1 in 10 Women Who Undergo C-Section Develop Infection

A study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (BJOG), found that one in 10 women who had c-sections developed an infection in or around the area of the incision. The infection was strong and painful enough to require a longer hospital stay or re-admission for treatment.

Most infections (88%) were not severe, but others affected deep tissues and internal organs.  Overweight and teen moms were more likely to contract an infection than other women in the study. The study looked at data from over 4,000 c-sections performed in 14 hospitals across England in 2009.

“This study has identified high rates of surgical infection following a caesarean with one in ten women developing an infection,” lead author Dr. Catherine Wloch said in a news release. “Prevention of these infections should be a clinical and public health priority,” she emphasized.

John Thorp, BJOG Deputy-Editor-in-Chief chimed in: “with the rise in numbers of women having a caesarean section and the rise in obesity rates, this issue is an important one. Post-surgical infection can seriously affect a woman’s quality of life at a critical time when she is recovering from an operation and has a new born baby to look after. More needs to be done to look into this and address ways of reducing infection.”

Women who’ve had a c-section are routinely given strong antibiotics to help prevent infection. According to the research compiled by the excellent advocacy organization, Childbirth Connection, “a woman with a cesarean is at risk for wound infection and may be much more likely than a woman with vaginal birth to have an infected uterus; women with a cesarean generally receive routine antibiotics to try to prevent infection.  Added likelihood for a woman with a cesarean: HIGH for infection.”

I think the take-away here is that a c-section reduces risks to mom and baby when it’s medically necessary but can actually introduce risk (and unnecessary pain) when it’s not medically necessary. The question then gets back to how we can reduce the number of c-sections performed in the US– currently 1 in 3 births is via surgery.

 

photo credit: Tammra McCauley/Flickr

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