WHO releases new guidelines to help reduce rising caesarean section births

Caesarean section has been associated with short and long-term risks that could extend to many years beyond the current delivery and affect the health of the woman and future pregnancies.

These risks were higher in women with limited access to comprehensive obstetric care as Caesarean sections are also costly.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has for the first time released and published new guidelines aimed at reducing worldwide increase in caesarean section rates.

In a press release Thursday, WHO noted that Caesarean section numbers had been steadily increasing, without significant benefits to the health of women or their babies.

Besides, WHO added, Caesarian births were also costly and such could pull resources away from other essential health services, particularly in overloaded and weak health systems.

It was in recognition of the urgent need to address the sustained and unprecedented rise in these rates that WHO published new guidance on non-clinical interventions specifically designed to reduce unnecessary caesareans.

The guidelines incorporated the views, fears and beliefs of both women and health professionals about caesarean sections and further considered the complex dynamics and limitations of health systems and organizations and relationships between women, health professionals and organization of health care services.

WHO has recommended educational interventions for women and families such as providing childbirth training workshops for mothers and couples, relaxation training programmes led by nurses, psychosocial couple-based programmes and psychoeducation for women with fear of pain or anxiety.

It has further recommended use of clinical guidelines, audits of caesarean sections, and timely feedback to health professionals about caesarean section practices.

The Medical Officer at WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, Dr. Ana Pilar Betran says that it was crucial that women who need caesarean sections are able to access this potentially life-saving procedure, but equally unnecessary procedures should be avoided, so that the lives and well-being of women and their babies are not put at risk.

While many women in need of caesarean sections still do not have access to caesarean section particularly in low resource settings, many others undergo the procedure unnecessarily, for reasons which cannot be medically justified, Dr. Betran said.

According to WHO, there are many complex reasons for the increase of caesarean section rates, and these vary widely between and within countries.

Before implementing any intervention to reduce rates, WHO is recommending research to be done which identifies and defines why rates are increasing in the particular setting, as well as what the locally relevant determinants of caesarean births are, and women and providers’ views and cultural norms.

Caesarean section is a surgical procedure that when undertaken for medical reasons, could save the life of a woman and her baby.

In Kenya, the National Hospital Insurance Fund last financial year paid around Sh.1.2 billion for caesarean. In many industrialized countries, the cesarean rate has risen over the last 20 years.

Source: Kenya News Agency