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Multiple C-Sections Put Women At Risk For Life-Threatening Complication

Somewhere down on the list of c-section risks you’ll find the following bullet point: “Increased risk of placenta problems in future pregnancies.”

One of those placental problems– placenta accreta– can be life-threatening. An NBC story that aired this week and has been getting a lot of attention, concerns a New Jersey mother who develops the complication after having had three prior c-sections.

Placenta accreta is when the placenta grows too deeply into the placenta walls and sometimes through the uterine wall. This can cause potentially serious complications: in severe cases there’s the risk that the placenta will not detach properly leading to heavy blood loss or even death.Women with placenta accreta are more likely to have an emergency hysterectomy at birth. They will definitely have a c-section.

But how common is it?

In the past accreta was hardly ever seen—it’s very rare in women who have not had prior uterine surgery. But these days with the rise in c-section numbers, the risk of accreta is going up. Last year, according to NBC, in New Jersey alone about 40 women died of placenta accreta. In 1977 the rate of accreta was 1-7000; in 2005 it had gone up to 1-533.

According to ACOG, the risk goes up with each c-section:

# of c-sections          % accreta

1                                   0.3

2                                   0.6

3                                   2.1

4                                   2.3

5 or more                     6.7

This story is a reminder that we need to bring down the c-section rates, and bring up the rate of VBACs, especially for those women who’d like to have large families.

Watch the NBC story here.

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