When A C-section Is Necessary (& When It’s Not)

Are botched C-sections a problem in our modern medical industry?

Are they actually necessary, what are the risks, and what should you do if your C-section goes wrong?

Let’s talk about that.

Cesarean section births have skyrocketed in the US, from roughly 7% of all births in 1990, to over an alarming 30% today (31.8% in 2020). But the increased C-sections doesn’t seem to have improved mortality rates. In fact, the maternal mortality rate in the US has increased over the last 20 years, to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births (as of 2020).

Again, this raises a few questions:

  • Do we perform too many unnecessary C-sections?
  • Are botched C-sections a problem in our healthcare industry?
  • When are they necessary, and when are they not?

Fact is, every woman wants an easy pregnancy. To enjoy her baby bump, daydream about her little one, and to have a smooth delivery. Complications are the last thing a mother wants to think about. 

Whether delivery is vaginal or via C-section, bringing a child into the world is an intense process. Doctors and midwives are wonderful and without their expertise, mortality stats would skyrocket. But every once in a while a healthcare professional makes a decision that’s more harmful than it is good.

In this week’s blog we’ll discuss some scenarios you should watch out for, and what you can do if you or your baby have experienced a botched C-section.

When C-Sections Are Necessary

There are times when a C-section is absolutely necessary and is the only option for saving lives. Medical staff are highly trained and should understand which instances warrant an emergency surgery. Red flags include fetal distress, an irregular heartbeat, a tangled umbilical cord, and dangerous bleeding among other scary situations. 

In some cases, they schedule C-sections in advance. If the mother has certain health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension it may be safer to deliver the baby via C-section. Here’s a few more instances where a C-section may be the safest option:

  • Problems with the placenta
  • Delivery of multiples (twins, triplets, and more)
  • The presence of a dangerous birth defect
  • A baby that is too large or is in an unfavorable birth position

Whether a C-section is a last minute decision or scheduled ahead of time, your doctor is ultimately responsible for making the right choices and explaining things to you. Failing to act quickly can result in harmful injuries and in the very worst scenario, death.

A man wearing scrubs holds a newborn baby above a scale.

When C-sections Are Unnecessary

Sometimes C-sections occur when they’re not medically necessary. But why?

Every once in a while, a mother will elect to have a C-section for personal reasons such as fear of delivery or a busy schedule. That’s not generally the case though. The main culprit for unnecessary C-sections is long labor. Here’s what Neel Shah, an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, had to say about it:

“When it comes to cost, on average C-sections are reimbursed at 50 percent more than vaginal deliveries in the US. Eighty percent of the cost of labor and delivery is staffing, and C-sections generally require a small staff working for fewer hours. So it’s not the additional money the doctor makes. A vaginal delivery, from a resource point of view, just costs more.”

There you have it. When a mother has a long labor and delivers vaginally, it costs the hospital more. More money and more time. Women are sometimes pressured into having a procedure they don’t want to, because of lack of patience. If your doctor is throwing in the towel because they want to go to the ball game, that’s a problem. Especially if their decision results in a botched C-section, or impacts you and your child in another harmful way.

What Complications Can Arise From a Botched C-section?

Because it’s so common now, most of us forget that a C-section is actually a major surgical procedure. The doctor makes incisions through the abdomen wall and uterus to deliver the baby. You’ll likely have a 4-6 inch scar, will be in the hospital for a few days, and will need to take a couple of months to recover. And that’s if everything goes smoothly. Sadly, many C-sections don’t. Many, in fact, go very wrong.

If the obstetrician makes a medical mistake, the surgery can go wrong, and in many ways.

One or more of the following complications may arise:

  • Injuries to the mother’s stomach, bladder or other organs
  • Cuts, nicks or other injuries to the baby
  • Premature birth
  • Breathing problems for the baby
  • Negative reactions to the medication used
  • Maternal mortality
  • Infant mortality
  • Emergency hysterectomy
  • Higher risk of blood clots
  • Too much blood loss and hemorrhaging
  • Infection at the wound site

Pay close attention to your body.

If your doctor botches your C-section, you may experience one of the following symptoms.

  • Fever
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Pain that doesn’t go away and keeps getting worse
  • Swelling at and around the incision
  • Redness at and around the incision
  • Discharge leaking from the incision

If your physician made the unnecessarily risky call to perform a C-section and harmed you or your baby in the process, you can do something about it. In fact, you should probably consider legal action.

A woman stares out the window as she sits in a chair with her knees cradles against her chest.

Botched C-sections: How To Take Legal Action

Even the most trusted professionals make mistakes under pressure. But that’s still no excuse for medical negligence. Mothers and babies deserve the safest method of delivery and care. Performing a risky and unnecessary C-section can endanger everyone and make a doctor liable for malpractice. It may be difficult to prove that your doctor suggested a C-section when it wasn’t necessary, but if you experienced a birth injury, you can (and often should) fight back.

Factors like payment or time of day shouldn’t influence a baby’s birth. If an injury affected you or your child, you should contact a birth injury lawyer right away. It’s important to learn what legal rights you may have and how to move forward.