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Long-Term Risks and Benefits Associated with Cesarean Delivery for Mother, Baby, and Subsequent Pregnancies

Many pregnant mothers have questions and concerns about delivery and want to know more about the safest ways to give birth. A recent article in Contemporary OB/GYN underscored how maternal mortality rates in the U.S. during childbirth are higher than they should be, and that a number of federal legislators are supporting Congress for the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2017 (H.R. 1318/S. 1112), which is designed to reduce birth-related maternal deaths. Given the recent emphasis on birth injuries and maternal deaths during delivery, what do expecting mothers need to know about cesarean deliveries? And more specifically, what are the long-term risks and benefits of cesarean deliveries? A recent study published in PLOS Medicine addressed these questions.

Getting the Facts About Cesarean Deliveries

Cesarean sections (also referred to simply as C-sections) are surgical procedures in which an incision is made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus, and through which the fetus is delivered. This procedure is relatively safe, but it does pose a higher risk of some complications than does a vaginal delivery. The authors of the study report that the rate of cesarean births has been on the rise in the U.S. and throughout the world. In North America alone, approximately 32 percent of all children were delivered through cesarean section. The authors of the study determined that, in a majority of cases, the most common injuries and harms to the mother was pelvic floor dysfunction. In terms of risk to the fetus, the most common injury was asthma. And finally, the “primary subsequent pregnancy outcome was perinatal death.”


The most common complications from a cesarean, or c-section, are:

  • Infection;
  • Heavy blood loss;
  • Blood clot in the mother’s legs or lungs;
  • Nausea and vomiting after delivery;
  • Severe headache after delivery;
  • Bowel issues, ranging from constipation to serious problems such as ileus;
  • Bladder injury or injury to another organ;

These complications, however, are often considered ephemeral side effects, but what about long-term complications?

Benefits and Risks of C-Sections in the Long Term

The authors of the study decided to look at the long-term risks and benefits of cesarean delivery since they are on the rise, and since most studies only address the short-term risks and complications of c-sections. Here are some of the key conclusions they reached about the long-term effects of cesarean delivery when compared with vaginal delivery:

  • Mothers can experience reduced urinary incontinence (benefit);
  • Mothers can experience reduced rate of pelvic organ prolapse (benefit);
  • Infants can have an increased risk of asthma (drawback);
  • Infants can experience increased risk of obesity (drawback);
  • Future subfertility is more likely (drawback);
  • Subsequent pregnancy risks rise, for placenta previa, uterine rupture, and stillbirth (drawback);
  • Maternal death (drawback);

Pregnant mothers should carefully consider risks with their physician to determine what type of birth is best for them in their given set of circumstances.

Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney

In some cases, birth injuries and maternal deaths are a result of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one suffered serious harm or a birth injury you should speak with a medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia about your case. Contact Cohen, Placitella & Roth today to speak with a dedicated advocate.

Contact us for your consultation (215) 567-3500