Caesarean sections should only be performed when they are medically necessary, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
The procedure, which is considered one of the most common surgeries performed worldwide, can put women and babies in danger when they are done without a medical need, the WHO said. The goal of caesarean sections is to safely deliver a baby when a vaginal delivery is not possible. But as the WHO said in its newly released statement, the surgery can also cause major complications including disability and even death.
The ideal amount of caesarean section births per country is between 1o to 15%. As a country’s rate moves to 10% the rate of mother and child deaths decreases, but there’s no evidence to show that rates over 10% have any effect on mother and child mortality.
“These conclusions highlight the value of caesarean section in saving the lives of mothers and newborns,” Dr. Marleen Temmerman, director of WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said in a statement. “They also illustrate how important it is to ensure a caesarean section is provided to the women in need – and to not just focus on achieving any specific rate.”
The rate of births by caesarean section in the U.S. is 33%, according to WHO data from 2013. By comparison, the rate is 21% in France, 7% in Indonesia, 52% in Brazil and 15% in the Netherlands.
For the sake of women and infants health, the WHO said physicians should focus on providing the surgery at a case by case basis. “Every effort should be made to provide caesarean sections to women in need, rather than striving to achieve a specific rate,” the report said.
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