ATLANTA (Reuters) - U.S. women who give birth by cesarean section are more likely to face medical complications such as unplanned hysterectomies and the need for blood transfusions, according to a large, federal study based on birth certificate data released on Wednesday.
Cesarean births also caused more ruptured uteruses and intensive care unit admissions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, after reviewing data from 3.5 million births in 41 states and Washington, D.C., in 2013.
The report underscores ongoing concern about the relatively high rate of so-called “c-section” births in the United States, where the procedure currently accounts for about one-third of live births, said Sally Curtin, a CDC statistician and an author of the study released by the agency.
“This adds to the overall evidence of the elevated risk of cesarean births,” she said, noting that while the procedure can be life-saving, it is considered major surgery and accompanied by greater risk of complications.
U.S. women who gave birth by c-section for the first time were three times more likely to require blood transfusions than women with vaginal deliveries who had no previous c-section, and eight times as likely to have ruptured uteruses, the CDC study found.
The rate for unplanned hysterectomies was more than five times higher among women with cesarean deliveries than for those with vaginal deliveries, according to the CDC. Women with cesarean births were also nearly six times more likely to be admitted into intensive-care units, it said.
After climbing in the 1990s, U.S. cesarean rates have declined slowly since 2009. Yet today’s one-third rate remains historically high, Curtin said. C-sections accounted for about 23.5 percent of births in 1991, the CDC said.
The ideal rate for cesarean births is from 10 to 15 percent, the World Health Organization said in a statement last month.
“New studies reveal that when cesarean section rates rise towards 10 percent across a population, the number of maternal and newborn deaths decreases,” the WHO statement said. “But when the rate goes above 10 percent there is no evidence that mortality rates improve.”
C-sections are “often performed without medical need, putting women and their babies at-risk of short- and long-term health problems,” WHO said.
Editing by Letitia Stein and Susan Heavey