The use of cesarean sections in childbirth has increasing dramatically over the past two decades and is reaching "epidemic" proportions in some countries in Southeastern Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on December 13.
A WHO regional conference in Tbilisi on December 13-14 is discussing how unnecessary cesarean sections can be reduced in the WHO European Region.
While national rates for cesarean sections between 2000 and 2015 remained below 20 percent in parts of northern Europe, the WHO says, they increased to nearly 50 percent in several countries in Southeastern Europe.
Women "may be putting themselves and their babies at unnecessary risk by undergoing nonmedically indicated cesarean sections that have virtually nothing to do with evidence-based medicine," said Dr. Nino Berdzuli, the program manager of sexual and reproductive, maternal and newborn health at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.
A cesarean section is vital when complications occur during childbirth. However, the WHO says that once cesarean section rates climb higher than 10 percent, there is no evidence to suggest that the procedure helps reduce maternal and newborn mortality.
On the contrary, the surgery can lead to complications and should be conducted only when medically necessary, the WHO says.
For mothers, negative consequences for future pregnancies include an increase in spontaneous preterm birth, uterine rupture, and abnormal placentation, which may result in excessive maternal bleeding and often the need for hysterectomy.
For children, cesarean sections have been associated with increased risk of admission to neonatal intensive care units, a higher risk of asthma, and an increased risk of obesity.