In a difficult birth, a cesarean section can save an infant’s life. For millions of babies who could have died or suffered permanent disability during a risky birth, C-sections have meant a chance at a normal, healthy life.
Over the past few decades, the rate of cesareans has increased significantly, transforming what was once a life-saving surgery into a routine procedure; one in three babies in the United States now are delivered via C-section.
If you or a family member feel that you have been harmed by an unnecessary C-section, it is important to explore your legal options for recovering compensation to which you may be entitled. For expectant mothers, it’s vital to understand when C-sections are necessary.
Medical Reasons for a C-section
A number of health conditions and situations may indicate that a C-section is necessary. For example, complications during a pregnancy or a history of uterine surgery may increase the need for a C-section.
Problems with the mother’s placenta — which grows within the uterus and provides the fetus with oxygen and food via the umbilical cord — can cause dangerous bleeding during a traditional birth, increasing the possible need for a C-section. Multiple fetuses, such as twins or triplets, also increase the risk.
Infections such as genital herpes or HIV, along with health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes, can increase the need for a C-section.
Additional factors that can indicate the need for a C-section include:
- The infant is too large to delivery safely via vaginal birth.
- Labor is taking too long or stops.
- The baby is positioned incorrectly for safe birth.
- A risk exists of umbilical cord prolapse, or slippage of the umbilical cord into the vagina, where it might be flattened during a traditional birth.
- A condition of fetal distress exists, in which the infant develops problems such as a decreased heart rate.
- The baby has a birth defect that may indicate additional risks for a vaginal birth.
The Human Costs of Unnecessary C-sections
While C-sections are considered routine in the United States and save the lives of many infants, they also constitute major surgery that poses risks for mothers. Experts note that a C-section rate of 10 to 15 percent is normal and that a rate above 30 percent is concerning. A rate above 15 percent generally does not save additional lives and introduces unnecessary risks.
Some medical experts argue that with fully a third of U.S. babies born via C-section, the risks of the procedure have become too high. Too many women are having C-sections without the medical indications that the procedure is needed.
Risks of performing the procedure unnecessarily include placenta accreta, a serious condition that can occur when portions of the placenta grow into the uterine wall too deeply and cause severe loss of blood following a birth. The incidence of the condition has increased significantly in recent years and appears to track with the increasing rate of C-section deliveries.
Women with the highest risk for placenta accreta are those who have experienced physical damage from prior C-sections. The development of placenta accreta also increases the chances that a woman will require a C-section delivery and hysterectomy.
Should You Have a C-section?
Medical decisions about when C-sections are warranted are complex and depend on a number of factors. If your doctor recommends that you have a C-section, make sure you understand the medical reasons behind the need for the surgery. For C-section births, experts recommend that you wait until the 39-week mark if possible to give your baby sufficient time to grow and develop in the womb.
When performed as a matter of medical necessity, C-sections save the lives of many infants. If you or your unborn baby have one or more risk factors — including problems with your placenta, an infection, a suspected birth defect or fetal distress — a C-section may serve as appropriate treatment to safeguard your baby’s health. However, an unnecessary C-section can introduce risks to your well-being.
If you believe that you or your baby have been harmed by an unnecessary cesarean section procedure, it’s important that you work with an experienced attorney to understand your rights. To schedule a consultation, please contact the Honolulu injury attorneys at Davis Levin Livingston.