The number of women giving birth via cesarean section has been on the rise for many years now: Approximately 33 percent of births in the United States are C-sections, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO); however, WHO recently released a statement saying this procedure should only be performed if it's absolutely medically necessary.
Physicians often turn to C-sections as the safest option when the baby is in an abnormal position or if the mother has been in labor for too long, but they are often performed when vaginal birth could still be viable option.
"For nearly 30 years, the international healthcare community has considered the ideal rate for cesarean sections to be between 10 percent and 15 percent," the WHO report states.
Although C-sections are one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the world, they can be harmful when unessentially performed. "As a country's rate moves to 10 percent the rate of mother and child deaths decreases, but there's no evidence to show that rates over 10 percent have any effect on mother and child mortality."
The report also emphasizes the importance of doctors treating every situation individually, and confirms that C-sections effectively save maternal and infant lives when medically required. "Every effort should be made to provide cesarean sections to women in need, rather than striving to achieve a specific rate."
Plus: Sign up for our daily newsletters to keep up with the latest news on child health and development.
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Birth Stories: Emergency C-section
Image: Pregnant woman in delivery room via Shutterstock