There is no question that the number of Cesarean deliveries has soared in recent years, accounting for one-third of all U.S. births in 2012 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That represents a huge increase from a rate of just 4.5 percent in 1965, though it has leveled off in the last couple years. Florida’s c-section rate is between 35 and 40 percent, the CDC reports.
While our Broward birth injury lawyers recognize that every surgery carries a possible risk of complications or infection, one of the ways that a higher c-section rate has helped is by reducing the chance that the baby will be harmed in the course of an extremely long labor or difficult birth.
Still, there are those who say the c-section rate is far too high. Now joining those critics is the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who are introducing new birthing guidelines for physicians and health care professionals in an effort to reduce the number of c-sections in the U.S.
While these guidelines may well have the desired effect, our concern is that the number of birth injuries may increase.
One of the most common birth injuries we see is when the doctor delays a c-section for too long, depriving the fetus of crucial oxygen intake. This is sometimes referred to as birth asphyxia. It occurs in about four out of every 1,0000 full-term births. Depending on how long this lasts and how severe it becomes, this may result in cerebral palsy, impaired sight, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, organ failure and death.
And yet, the ACOG is calling for doctors to allow the labor process to go on for longer – particularly for first-time mothers. Specifically, the group urges doctors to allow mothers a prolonged latent (or early) labor phase.
Additionally, the organization are indicating that the “active” labor phase doesn’t actually begin until cervical dilation has reached 6 centimeters (instead of 4 centimeters).
The group further recommends that women delivering their second or subsequent child be allowed to push for at least two hours. If they are having their first child, the group recommends allowing pushing to continue for three hours – sometimes even longer if the woman has been given an epidural.
And finally, the organization indicates that doctors should expand their use of tools to help assist in vaginal deliveries – particularly, forceps. This is especially worrisome because the use of forceps has been known to cause injury to both mother and child.
According to the Mayo Clinic, possible risks to the mother include:
- Lower genital tract wounds or tears;
- Difficulty urinating;
- Injuries to the urethra or bladder;
- Uterine rupture;
- Weakening of the muscles and ligaments supporting pelvic organs.
Risks to the baby include:
- Facial injuries or facial muscle weakness;
- External eye trauma;
- Skull fractures or bleeding of the skull;
These injuries can have life-long consequences, resulting in years of therapy, treatment and possibly even requiring future surgeries.
Certainly for those mothers who can safely deliver vaginally, it’s the route many would prefer. However, we would urge those in the medical field not to curtail the number of c-sections arbitrarily, particularly when there are situations that might demand fast action.
Palm Beach birth injury cases are handled by the Hollander Law Firm. Call 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation.