Why C-Section Rates Are Crazy High
The average American woman has her first kid at age 26, and 1 in 3 of those infants currently emerges not from the birth canal but from a lower abdominal incision. This procedure, called a cesarean, or C-section, is now the most common operation in the country. More than 1.2 million babies were born via the surgery in 2016 alone, according to the CDC.
Maybe that’s why people tend to think of Cs as no big deal—despite the fact they are actually a major operation that requires a sharp knife through the belly, a slicing of the uterus, and some rearranging of organs. (Actor Dax Shepard memorably compared wife Kristen Bell’s C-section to getting “completely disassembled....Your liver’s out, I think. And... definitely your intestines.”)
In plenty of cases, the operation is life-saving—like when the baby is facing bottom first or the mom has a condition that makes labor dangerous. But research suggests that nearly half of all C-sections are medically unnecessary. “The consensus is that we are doing too many,” says ob-gyn and Cosmo contributor Jennifer Ashton, MD. Adds Neel Shah, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Delivery Decisions Initiative at Ariadne Labs: “The majority of healthy women should be able to have vaginal deliveries.”
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