Having a c-section isn’t fun.
Few women want to undergo major abdominal surgery before embarking on their new journey as a mother.
For some women, however, a c-section is a necessity, to ensure they and their babies are safe.
This life saving surgery is a medical miracle but too often it becomes the only option after various types of meddling with the birth process.
There is also a hidden cost to c-section surgery which few women are informed about until much later: it has the potential to cost them their lives.
Pregnant Mama Exhausted Hospital Blood Supply After ‘Dying’ Three Times
One mother of three recently discovered this cost for herself. She ‘died’ three times on the table during a c-section.
As reported in Yahoo News, Sarah Parkes lost all the blood in her body eight times, as she was having her third c-section. Her heart stopped three times.
Sarah needed 128 bags of blood to keep her alive, exhausting John Hunter Hospital’s supply of blood.
The reason for Sarah’s near death experience was related to her previous c-sections, which had increased her risk of developing placenta accreta, where the placenta attaches too deeply to the wall of the uterus.
There are three levels of severity to this life threatening condition: accreta, increta and percreta. As the severity increases, the chances of the mother’s survival fall dramatically – almost to zero.
In Sarah’s situation, the placenta had attached to scar tissue, which had formed on her uterus after previous c-sections and had then grown ‘like a tumour’. Ultrasound couldn’t determine whether the placenta was growing properly, so it was recommended she have her baby early, at 34 weeks.
During this surgery, Sara almost lost her life. A major blood vessel was opened and she began to haemorrhage, threatening her life and the life of her baby.
Is Placenta Accreta Common?
Placenta accreta was once considered a very rare problem. In the 1950s it affected about 1 in 30,000 pregnancies. By the 1980s, the rate had increased to 1 in 1,250 pregnancies.
In the US today, rates of placenta accreta have climbed to 1 in 333 pregnancies. According to ACOG, 7% of women who experience placenta accreta will die, usually due to haemorrhage.
Why Are Placenta Accreta Rates Increasing?
A growing problem in modern obstetrics, placenta accreta reflects the increasing rates of c-sections in many developed countries.
And many women who experience placenta accreta realise they weren’t made aware of the risk factor before they had previous c-sections.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):
- One c-section carries a 3%risk of placenta accreta
- A second c-section increases the risk to 11%
- A third c-section dramatically pushes the risk of placenta accreta up to 40%
- Fourth and fifth c-sections increase the risk to 60% and almost 70% respectively.
It’s easy to think you will avoid the risk if you have only one or even two c-sections. But c-section also increases the risk of placenta previa, which, in turn, pushes up your chances of placenta accreta:
- One c-section plus previa increases the risk of accreta by 25%
- Two or more c-section plus previa pushes the risk of accreta up to 40%
Women are unlikely to be aware of this increased risk of a potentially life threatening problem when they have their first c-section.
And despite health experts recommending vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC) as a safe option for women, many women end up having repeat c-sections due to a fear of uterine rupture.
Why Aren’t Women Warned About This Risk?
In 2010, 39-year-old Linda Parker went into hospital to have her third c-section. She haemorrhaged on the table, due to placenta accreta and died 11 days later. She never woke up to meet her baby.
Linda had a 40% chance of placenta accreta but, according to a coroner’s report, her obstetrician never identified her as being at risk. And the sad truth is many women aren’t even aware of having placenta accreta until they are on the table and things begin to go horribly wrong.
Even if they are diagnosed early enough, nothing can be done to avoid the repercussions. Depending on the severity of the condition, many women face blood transfusions, hysterectomy, reconstructive surgery of their organs, and post traumatic stress disorder.
It also affects the possibility of having more children in the future. Celebrity Kim Kardashian used a surrogate when she had a third child, because she had scar tissue and a hole in her uterus as a result of placenta accreta in her previous two pregnancies.
Can Placenta Accreta Be Prevented?
Preventing placenta accreta starts with preventing unnecessary c-sections.
The World Health Organization states c-section rates should be around 10-15%. This level ensures women who genuinely need this medical assistance can benefit from it. In many developed countries, however, rates are higher than 30%. This means more than half of the women having c-sections are exposed to the risk unnecessarily.
C-section surgery is life saving when there is no other way for a mother and baby to survive birth. However, with today’s medical approach to maternity care, it occurs more often as a result of failed interventions.
Most women who give birth in hospitals are subjected to constraints and policies that limit the normal process of labour and birth. Routine procedures such as vaginal exams and electronic fetal monitoring, busy maternity wards, and changing staff all contribute to disturbing labour and increase the chances of interventions.
Preventing unnecessary c-section begins with choosing your care provider and birth setting carefully.
In 2014, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stated birth within an obstetric environment has higher rates of intervention than in other settings. Women who are healthy and low risk are more likely to have interventions and c-sections when they are in the care of an obstetrician.
This is apparent in Australia, where private obstetricians and private hospitals have a c-section rate of almost 45%. Public hospitals fare only slightly better, with 30% of women having c-sections.
A recent report from the Western Australian Public Health department showed almost 40% of all births in that state are c-sections.
In Australia and the US, the vast majority of women give birth in obstetric or hospital settings.
According to Doctor Neel Shah, from the Harvard School of Medicine, birth environment and setting are the main reasons why c-section rates have climbed so dramatically in the last 50 years.
In countries where midwifery-led models of care are normal practice, c-section rates are within the WHO recommendations. In the Nordic countries, midwives provide maternity care unless there are complications. As a result, there are low mortality rates for mothers and babies.
If you want to avoid a c-section and the subsequent dangers, such as placenta accreta, then make an informed decision about your birth setting and care provider.
Prioritise quality childbirth education during your pregnancy. Independent birth classes will equip you to make informed decisions about your maternity care, before and during labour.
The BellyBelly Immersion Program is designed to help parents to feel prepared for birth, and to increase their chances of a positive birth experience. Click here for more information.