Caesarean sections are on the rise globally and will account for 29 per cent of all births by 2030, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggesting an increase in the number of medically unnecessary, potentially harmful procedures.
C-section birth rates worldwide currently have risen to 21 per cent from around 7 per cent in 1990. But many countries still lack access -- in the least developed countries, about 8 per cent of women gave birth by C-section with only 5 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.
While a C-section is 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.
"Caesarean sections are absolutely critical to save 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, Director of WHO's Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and the UN joint programme, HRP, in a statement on Wednesday.
"But 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," Askew added.
By 2030 the highest rates are likely to be in Eastern Asia (63 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (54 per cent), Western Asia (50 per cent), Northern Africa (48 per cent) Southern Europe (47 per cent) and Australia and New Zealand (45 per cent), the study noted.
The results, published in the BMJ Global Health, are based on nationally-representative data from 154 countries worldwide from 1990 to 2018.
C-sections also include 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.
The WHO also underscores the importance of focusing on each woman's unique needs in pregnancy and childbirth.
"It's important for all women to be able to talk to healthcare providers and be part of the decision making on their birth, receiving adequate information including the risks and benefits. Emotional support is a critical aspect of quality care throughout pregnancy and childbirth," said Dr Ana Pilar Betran, Medical Officer at WHO and HRP.
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