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New WHO Research Reveals Rise In Caesarean Section Use

Rising Caesarean Section rates suggest increasing numbers of medically unnecessary, potentially harmful procedures

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Justina Asishana
Justina Asishana
Justina Asishana is a Nigerian from Edo state. She is a data and investigative journalist who also fact-checks. She covers health, agriculture, education and governance

GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised alarm over the rise in caesarean section use for pregnant women stating that by 2030, 29 per cent of all births would take place by the caesarean section.

The research titled, “Study, Trends and projections of caesarean section rates: global and regional estimates” is published in the BMJ Global Health.

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The research stated, “If this trend continues, by 2030 the highest rates are likely to be in Eastern Asia (63%), Latin America and the Caribbean (54%), Western Asia (50%), Northern Africa (48%) Southern Europe (47%) and Australia and New Zealand (45%)”.

WHO recognizes that while a caesarean section can be an essential and life-saving surgery, it can also put women and babies at unnecessary risk of short- and long-term health problems if performed when there is no medical need.

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“Caesarean sections are critical to saving lives in situations where vaginal deliveries would pose risks, so all health systems must ensure timely access for all women when needed,” said Dr Ian Askew, the Director of WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and the UN joint programme, HRP.

He pointed out that in recent times, “not all the caesarean sections carried out at the moment are needed for medical reasons.  Unnecessary surgical procedures can be harmful, both for a woman and her baby.”

How Africa Fares in Ceaseran Section use

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Africa is reported to have a lack of access to caesarean section use despite the increasing use in other continents.

The research revealed that there are significant discrepancies in a woman’s access to caesarean sections, depending on where in the world she lives.

The research also noted that in the least developed countries, about 8% of women gave birth by caesarean section with only 5% in sub-Saharan Africa.

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This, according to the research indicates ” a concerning lack of access to this lifesaving surgery.’

However, in Latin America and the Caribbean, Caesarean Section use are as high as 4 in 10 which means  43% of all births. 

The Research also stated that in five countries which are Dominican Republic, Brazil, Cyprus, Egypt and Turkey, caesarean sections now outnumber vaginal deliveries.

Caeseran Sections

Caesarean sections are surgical operations used in delivery. It can be essential in situations such as prolonged or obstructed labour, fetal distress, or because the baby is in an abnormal position. 

Worldwide caesarean section rates have risen from around 7% in 1990 to 21% today, and are projected to continue increasing over this current decade. 

The risk in caesarean Section includes the potential for heavy bleeding or infection, slower recovery times after childbirth, delays in establishing breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, and increased likelihood of complications in future pregnancies.

Causes of high caesarean section usage vary widely between and within countries. Drivers include health sector policies and financing, cultural norms, perceptions and practices, rates of preterm births, and quality of healthcare.

WHO Recommends Non-clinical Actions

The WHO has recommended some non-clinical actions that can reduce medically unnecessary use of caesarean sections.

The recommendations include educational interventions that engage women actively in planning for their birth such as childbirth preparation workshops, relaxation programmes and psychosocial support.

Another recommendation involves having a collaborative midwifery-obstetrician model of care, for which care is provided primarily by midwives, with 24-hour back-up from a dedicated obstetrician and financial strategies that equalize the fees charged for vaginal births and caesarean sections.

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