How Risky are C-Section Births?
Births by Caesarian section, also known as c-section births, are often recommended in high-risk birth situations, such as when there are problems with the placenta or when the baby presents in a breech position (feet first). Even when a pregnancy or delivery is not considered high risk, a woman and her doctor may agree to schedule a c-section. These surgeries have become common; almost everyone knows someone who has delivered via c-section, and the Centers for Disease Control report that in 2015, 32% of all births in the United States were by Caesarian section. But just how risky are c-section births?
In contrast with a vaginal birth, in a c-section, a surgeion makes an incision in the mother's abdominal wall and uterus, through which the baby is delivered. Most of the time, this procedure is uneventful, though recovery time is longer than for most vaginal births because a c-section is a surgical procedure (recovery time for a c-section is around 4-6 weeks, compared with 1-2 weeks for a vaginal birth).
Like all surgical procedures, this one carries risks. Performing a c-section when one is not medically indicated, or failing to inform the mother of the risks of a c-section before she consents to one, may constitute medical malpractice.
It is important to understand the risks of a c-section before agreeing to have one if possible; obviously, some c-sections take place in emergency circumstances in which it is not possible to have calm discussions about the pros and cons of the procedure.
Risks to the Baby in a C-Section
The reason many women agree to a c-section in the first place is to protect the health of their baby, such as when labor is prolonged, the baby's vital signs are declining, or the baby is in an atypical position that makes a vaginal delivery undesirable or impossible. They should be aware of potential risks to the baby from the c-section procedure itself. These include:
- Lacerations (cuts) or other injury to the infant during the c-section. According to various studies, the rate of fetal lacerations during a c-section range from 1.5% to 6%, with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) placing the figure at around 3%. Depending on the seriousness of the cut, the child could suffer lifelong complications.
- Complications from low birth weight: If a doctor miscalculates the gestational age of a fetus, a c-section might be performed too early, leading to complications from a low birth weight and an extended stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.
- Immature lungs and respiratory complications: an infant delivered too early by c-section may have respiratory issues due to their lungs not having fully developed.
If mothers are made aware of these potential risks to their baby, they can weigh them against the risks of not having a c-section.
Risks to the Mother in a C-Section
In addition to the risks of a c-section for an infant, there are risks to mothers stemming from a c-section, including:
- Blood clots in the legs or lungs. Blood clots are one of the most common complications of a c-section, but may be prevented with proper post-surgical care.
- Infection at the surgical site or in the uterus or other pelvic organs
- Severe blood loss (hemorrhaging)
- Laceration to the bladder or other pelvic organs, requiring further surgery to repair
- Anesthesia errors, such as an incorrect dosage or allergic reaction to anesthesia
- Bowel complications, such as constipation or ileus
- Maternal death. This very rare complication occurs in only about 2 out of every 100,000 c-sections.
If you or a loved one has had a c-section and were not informed of the risks, and mother or baby suffered a bad outcome as a result of the procedure, you should consult an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney. An ethical attorney will never encourage you to pursue a medical malpractice case that doesn't have merit, but if you or your child has suffered injury due to a c-section, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Your time to file a claim is limited, so you have nothing to lose from a free consultation, but a great deal to lose if you don't investigate your rights.
You may also be interested in:
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.