Women are less informed about the long-term risks of caesarean sections on themselves, their offspring and their future pregnancies – and that is dangerous, according to a new study published in medical journal PLOS Medicine.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the U.K. reviewed data from 80 studies and trials which jointly looked at 29-million births – believed to be the biggest analysis of the health impact of c-sections ever.
The study revealed that caesarean delivery has adverse associations with fertility, future pregnancy outcomes, future pregnancy complications and long-term childhood outcomes.
Asthma and obesity for children
Children born by c-section were 21 percent more likely to develop asthma by the age of 12. This form of delivery was also associated with increased odds of a child being overweight. In fact, the risk of obesity for under-fives jumped by 59 percent, the study found.
Placenta abruption, miscarriage and hysterectomy for moms
Women with previous caesarean delivery were likely to suffer pregnancy-related complications in future.
For example, they have increased odds of having placenta previa, which can cause severe bleeding in the mother before or during delivery, and placental abruption – a serious pregnancy complication in which the placenta detaches from the womb.
Patients and clinicians should be aware that caesarean delivery is associated with long-term risks for the baby and for subsequent pregnancies.
The miscarriage risk rose by 27 percent for women who delivered via c-section. They also had increased odds of hysterectomy and stillbirth.
"Although we cannot conclude that caesarean delivery causes certain outcomes, patients and clinicians should be aware that caesarean delivery is associated with long-term risks for the baby and for subsequent pregnancies, and a reduced risk of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse for the mother," said the study co-author, Dr Sarah Stock.
About 30 years ago, only one in 10 babies were born through c-section – but that has now risen to around one in four – around 160,000 babies a year.
In South Africa, delivery via c-section reportedly increased by 63 percent between 2008 and 2014. By 2015, the country was in the top two countries in the continent that had a high rate of caesareans – at 25 percent, exceeding the World Health Organisation's recommended maximum of 15 percent caesareans per country.
The researchers said the findings should help women decide whether to have an elective caesarean or not.