The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an article entitled Cesarean Delivery and the Risk–Benefit Calculus by Jeffrey L. Ecker, M.D., and Fredric D. Frigoletto, Jr., M.D. This article explains several reasons for an increase of cesarean deliveries over the past several years.
The article states that from 1937 to 2005 there has been an increase in c- sections of 1000% (10 times), in fact, as of 2005 nearly 30% of all deliveries are by C-section. If this trend continues many potential birth injuries such as, cerebral palsy and erb's palsy will be avoided. I believe the increase is due to three factors.
The first factor is the advance in medical treatment for the mother. In 1937, 6% of patients died after cesarean delivery, this has decreased by a factor of nearly 1000 due to modern antibiotics, anesthetic techniques, blood banks, and critical care units. As the risk decreases for the mother more doctors and mothers are willing to deliver via c-section.
Next, the advances of prenatal care and prenatal technology such as ultrasound and fetal heart monitoring have lead to an increase in cesarean deliveries. With new technology doctors are better equipped to determine if the fetus is in distress, may become distressed or may have difficulty progressing in a vaginal birth, thus, avoiding many birth injuries such as Erb’s Palsy and hypoxia which leads to Cerebral Palsy.
Finally, as medical treatment advances women that would not have otherwise been able to conceive are getting pregnant, and at advanced ages.
“…there has been a 3.8-year increase since 1970 in the mean age at first delivery, and since 1990, births to women 35 to 39 years of age and 40 to 44 years of age have increased by 43% and 62%, respectively. In addition, the number of premature and low-birth-weight neonates has increased, in part as a function of the increasing number of multiple gestations (121,246 in 2001 vs. 68,339 in 1980), many of which have resulted, in turn, from the use of assisted reproductive technology — assistance necessitated in many cases by advancing maternal age.”
I believe as technology increases so too will the rate of cesarean deliveries.