Australia’s soaring caesarean rate cause for alarm


Australia now has one of the highest caesarean rates in the world. There are claims the skyrocketing numbers of caesareans is cause for concern, with unnecessary caesareans putting mothers and babies at risk.

Writer, author and breastfeeding counsellor Kim Lock has penned a scathing opinion piece for The Guardianalleging caesarean rates are too high, and that birth shouldn’t be treated as a medical procedure.

It comes in the wake of the World Health Organisation’s latest statement on caesareans, where it indicates that while the practice can save lives, “caesarean section is often performed without medical need, putting women and their babies at-risk of short and long-term health problems”.

The WHO warns that when the rate of caesarean sections performed in a country goes above 10 per cent, there’s no evidence that mortality rates improve. Kim Lock writes that a decade ago Australia’s caesarean rate was 19 per cent, and now sits at 32 per cent. She asks:

“If increasing rates of surgical birth does not improve outcomes, and if caesareans cost public healthcare systems significantly more than low-intervention births, why are more than one in three birthing women now facing surgery? And what effect is this having on women?”


The Guardian article lists a host of possible complications for women who give birth via c-section, including infection, risk of a hysterectomy, haemorrhage or death. There are also risks to the baby and the surgery can also interfere with establishing breastfeeding, and impact the baby’s future health.

Ms Lock lists some sobering statistics:

“In Australia between 2006-2010 there were 39 direct maternal deaths. 26 of these deaths were caused by amniotic fluid embolism, thromboembolism or obstetric haemorrhage. Of these 26 deaths, over half followed caesarean section. Only three followed a normal vaginal birth.”

She also cites links to postnatal mental illness, “Clearly, we are failing birthing women. So what needs to be done?”.

Ms Lock alludes to the need to rely more heavily on midwives, rather than obstetricians, when it comes to birthing.

“While midwifery care is based upon viewing pregnancy and birth as normal physiological life events, obstetric medicine is based upon treating pregnancy and birth as a medical procedure. Obstetricians are surgeons, and surgeons excel at performing surgery. While midwives are paid to wait for labour to unfold and to act if necessary, obstetricians are paid to act.”

While Ms Lock does concede that in some instances caesareans save lives, women should feel supported in making their own birthing choices. She says, “The priority of any health professional should be upholding women’s rights to bodily autonomy; any woman who makes an autonomous, informed decision to elect caesarean should have the unequivocal right to do so”.

Did you have, or are you planning, a caesar birth? What is your opinion on Australia’s soaring caesarean rate?

(via The Guardian)

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