Pregnant Woman

Unnecessary Cesarean Sections Should Be Avoided, WHO Warns


The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that women should give birth by Cesarean section only if it is an absolute medical necessity. The global health guidelines suggest that the ideal rate for Caesarean births is between 10% and 15% and unnecessary surgery could be “putting women and their babies at risk of short and long-term health problems.” As per the latest figures, each year around one in four babies are born by Caesarean section in the UK. According to the current National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines, expectant mothers can choose to have Caesarean section, regardless of need.

On the basis of United Nations-backed studies, the WHO suggests that there is no evidence which indicates that death rate reduces when the C-section rate goes beyond 10% of births. The organization stated “Caesarean sections can cause significant complications, disability or death, particularly in settings that lack the facilities to conduct safe surgeries or treat potential complications.”

The impacts of Caesarean section rates on maternal and newborn outcomes such as stillbirths or morbidities like birth asphyxia are still not known. More investigations are required to know the effect on Caesarean section on women’s psychological and social well-being. Caesarean sections are expensive and high rates of unnecessary surgeries can pull resources away from other services in overloaded and weak health systems.

Dr Marleen Temmerman, director of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research commented “These conclusions highlight the value of Caesarean section in saving the lives of mothers and newborns. They also illustrate how important it is to ensure a Caesarean section is provided to the women in need – and to not just focus on achieving any specific rate. We urge the healthcare community and decision-makers to reflect on these conclusions and put them into practice at the earliest opportunity.”

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) has reported that 26.2% of UK births were by C-sections last year. Over the past two decades, the number of women having Caesarean sections has also increased. Complications such as prolonged labor or the baby being in an abnormal position usually lead to the operation but some are pre-planned.


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