One out of every five pregnant women who didn’t medically need a C-section still went ahead and got one, finds a study
A caesarean section (C-section) is a method used to deliver a baby by making cuts in the abdomen and uterus. Some women choose it to avoid hours of painful labour. But compared to vaginal birth, this procedure can have future risks for women. However, a study finds one in five pregnant women in India undergo C-sections even when they don’t medically need one.
The World Health Organization recommends C-sections only in certain situations such as high blood pressure or a ruptured uterus or in women who are obese or over 35. Yet, the study finds that women who could otherwise do without a C-section were highly likely to get it if they delivered in a private medical institution. The likelihood was also high in southern India, or among women who knew someone else who had done the same.
Pradeep Kumar and Preeti Dhillon of the International Institute for Population Sciences studied 2015-16 data from the National Family Health Survey to analyze around 59,000 women across India who gave birth in the previous five years and did not medically need a C-section. Around 40% of such women who went to private facilities got C-sections, compared to 11% of those who went to public health facilities. This likelihood was 43% in southern India.
One explanation is that C-sections are more lucrative, so doctors could be advising the procedure even when medically unjustified. The authors attribute the higher prevalence of the phenomenon in south India to women there having more autonomy, and hence exercising a choice to not go for painful vaginal birth.
The study finds that there is a 37% chance of a woman going for a C-section without medically needing one if someone from her family had done it. This shows others’ experiences could also be impacting women’s decisions.