Journalist Lisa Ling had a C-section with her first daughter, Jett, because an ultrasound revealed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, she wrote in an essay as part of her CNN series, “This Is Birth."
Because the first C-section was easy and without complications, when she was pregnant with her next baby, she decided that a planned delivery and the “predictability” it offered was somewhat of a relief. There was "no question" she'd have an elective C-section.
But when she gave birth to daughter Ray in June, although everything seemed to go according to plan at first with her scheduled C-section, the recovery was not easy the second time around. And, Ling wrote, "there was no actual medical necessity” for the second C-section.
What happened next was definitely not normal. Ling shares that her incision was much more painful than the first time, and that it also began leaking fluid at one point. It turned out that she had developed an infection, and although she was prescribed antibiotics, “it took a whole month for the wound to completely close.”
Ling's husband, a doctor, believes she likely picked up the infection while in the hospital after giving birth.
Ling also pointed out the rise in C-section rates nationally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate went from just above 20 percent in 1997 to nearly 33 percent in 2009 and 2011. In 2014, the rate came down less than 1 percent.
"To put that into perspective," Ling wrote, "the World Health Organization says it should ideally be closer to 10-15 percent."
According to a 2016 Consumer Reports study, aside from medically necessary C-sections and elective ones, a woman's chances of ending up with a C-section also depends on which hospital she chooses. Most states have C-section rates that are too high; the national target rate for C-sections is 23.9 percent or lower, but 32 states and the District of Columbia have rates that soar well above the national target number for first-time moms with low-risk deliveries. In that study, about 60 percent of hospitals had rates far exceeding 24 percent, which is considered a "reasonable" rate.
And not only are many women having medically unnecessary C-sections, Ling shared stats about how much insurance companies are shelling out for vaginal births versus Cesarean. Both private insurance and Medicaid end up paying thousands more for C-sections. And aside from the cost, there are the potential health risks for both mom and baby, as Ling well knows from personal experience.
"In all honesty, I regret it,” Ling wrote. "I'm grateful that my baby's OK, and that I'm OK now, but it was not easy. I hope that when women consider having an elective C-section, they really, really take the time to understand the potential consequences."