When the national cesarean-section (C-section) birth rate was first measured in 1965, it was just 4.5 percent. Since then, the rate has increased seven-fold, accounting for nearly one-third of all live births, according to the American Journal of Public Health. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported it climbed 60 percent just between 1996 and 2011. Today, approximately 1 in every 3 new mothers in the U.S. will give birth via C-section.
Although this increase is given substantial credit for reducing certain kinds of birth-related injuries – particularly relating to the use of tools like forceps and vacuums – there is also controversy over whether the procedure is undertaken more often than necessary, putting mothers and babies at undue risk of harm.
At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our Boston injury attorneys understand that while the cesarean section surgery can be a life-saving procure for mother and baby, it also – just like any other procedure – comes with a host of potential complications. It’s not a decision that should be entered lightly. Nor is it one that should be delayed when it’s necessary. Physicians who perform these surgeries must be well-trained, alert and prepared to handle any obstacles as they arise.What is a C-Section?
The first modern C-section was performed in 1881 in Germany. Today in the U.S., more than 1.3 million babies born every year enter the world via C-section.
A C-section is the surgical delivery of a baby that requires incisions of both the abdominal wall and uterus. The intended purpose is to offer an alternative when the baby’s or mother’s life may be at risk. Some doctor will perform the procedure upon request from the patient, despite having no medical reason to do so.
Although considered relatively safe, C-sections are generally associated with greater risk than vaginal birth.Common Reasons for C-Sections
There are a number of reasons why a physician may determine a C-section is the best possible option for a healthy delivery. These may include:
- Fetal distress
- No progress during labor
- Uterine ruptures (affecting 1 out of every 1,500 births)
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Gestational diabetes
- Active genital herpes
- Infant in the breech position
- Mother with history of previous C-sections
- Placental problems (i.e., placenta previa, placental insufficiency and placental eruption)
- Twins or multiples
- Fetus has a known birth defect
As with any surgery, the C-section is not without complications. Some of those we see most frequently as birth injury lawyers are:
- Lacerations of the Fetus. These would be scrapes, cuts or similar injuries that occur during a procedure. Usually, these are attributed to a procedure that is improperly performed by health care providers. Lacerations could be minor, healing on their own in a matter of days or weeks, or severe, resulting in permanent scarring, or worse, conditions such as Erb’s palsy, Klumpke’s palsy, cervical cord injuries and bone fractures.
- Respiratory distress. Babies born via C-section are much more likely to experience breathing difficulties. If babies aren’t properly monitored, they could suffer long-term respiratory distress and other health ailments.
- Complications with Anesthesia. As with many other surgeries, C-sections require medication to ensure the mother is relieved of the pain of the incision. Usually, this is done via injection into the spine or through simply general anesthesia. Problems can arise when incorrect dosages are administered or when the anesthesiologist fails to check medical history for all allergies. Other problems include blood clotting, dangerously low blood pressure, internal bleeding and placental abruption.
- Blood Clots. Blood clots are a known risk of C-sections, which is why doctors and other health care providers have a responsibility to closely monitor for any issues in the 24 hours after surgery. Failure to monitor clots can result in one breaking off and traveling to the lungs, heart or brain, where they can be fatal.
- Hemorrhaging. If maternal bleeding is not kept under control, she may suffer a dangerous loss of blood known as hemorrhaging. In these cases, blood transfusions may be necessary to save the life of the mother.
- Infections. The possibility of either mother or child developing infection is high. Proper post-surgical treatment and wound care is critical.
Although much has been written about the prevalence of unnecessary C-sections, there are also grave concerns when physicians fail to schedule or order the procedure despite clear warning signs that it is necessary.
Sometimes, the problem is that health care providers aren’t properly monitoring the mother and/or the fetus for signs of distress.
If a necessary C-section is delayed too long, it can result in:
- Lack of oxygen, which in turn can result in brain damage, cerebral palsy and/or autism;
- Risk of physical injuries
- Long-term developmental delays
Doctors should be closely monitoring mothers-to-be and their babies in the days and weeks before the due date to determine whether a scheduled or emergency C-section may be needed. Failure to do so resulting in injury to mother or child may be grounds for medical malpractice litigation.