Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that as many as a third of all births in the U.S. are performed by cesarean section (C-section). This figure reflects a sharp rise in the number of C-section births performed in recent years – and an overall 60 percent increase since 1996.
C-sections can offer important – and sometimes life-saving – benefits, but they also carry risks not present in natural births. The majority of these risks are associated with various forms of medical malpractice.
Why are So Many More Women Having C-Sections?
It used to be that C-sections were primarily reserved for situations where they were medically necessary. For example, if a mother is losing a significant amount of blood or a large baby is in the breech position, a C-section may be necessary to protect the health of both mother and child. Today, however, the rise in C-section rates is largely driven by three non-medical factors:
- The mother’s convenience. Some mothers choose to undergo C-sections for purposes of scheduling maternity leave or accommodating their work schedules.
- The doctor’s convenience. In a startling trend, more doctors are scheduling C-sections not because they are medically necessary, but because they want to plan their patients’ births around their own personal lives.
- Avoiding unanticipated events during childbirth. Some doctors also rely on C-sections in order to avoid the unanticipated events that can occur during childbirth. They often do so in order to avoid making mistakes that can lead to lawsuits for medical malpractice.
However, due to the risks and financial costs associated with C-sections, there is a growing movement in the medical community to return to a focus on performing C-sections only when they are medically necessary. Unfortunately, even with medically-necessary C-sections, mothers and babies still face the dangers of medical malpractice.
What are the Medical Malpractice Risks Associated with C-Section Births?
Doctors who make mistakes while performing C-sections may be liable for medical malpractice. Malpractice during C-section births can lead to complications such as:
Injuries to the Mother Due to C-Section Malpractice
- Lacerated bowels or other internal organs
- Blood clots
- Complications from anesthesia errors
Injuries to the Fetus or Newborn Due to C-Section Malpractice
- Brain damage
- Organ damage
- Oxygen deprivation
- Broken bones
Failure to Perform a Necessary C-Section
On the flip side, there is also a risk that a doctor will fail to perform a C-section that is medically necessary. If your doctor proceeded with a natural birth when you should have had a C-section, this too can give rise to a claim for medical malpractice.