Cesarean section rates climbing in Washington state

MONROE — Dr. William Thot says he’s seen the trend noted in this week’s state Department of Health report: Delivering babies by cesarean section is becoming increasingly common.

“It’s definitely been true,” said Thot, medical director of Valley General Hospital. “It’s been creeping up for a number of years,” even though medical groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been trying to decrease C-section rates.

“The fact is, patients are getting bigger and babies are getting bigger,” Thot said. “Those changes make it more difficult” to deliver babies vaginally.

Obesity and increasing rates of diabetes are both factors in mothers weighing more, he said.

The state Department of Health study found that each year, about 21,800 Washington women deliver by C-section, about 26 percent of all births in Washington.

Of these, about 13,300 are first time C-sections and about 8,500 are repeat C-sections.

About 14 percent of C-section births may not have been necessary, the study says.

Women in the Puget Sound region had about 10 percent more C-sections per year than women living in other areas of the state, according to the study.

Larger women are having more C-sections, Thot said, in part because they’re at higher risk of their contractions not being as strong as they should be.

“It makes it hard to get people into good labor patterns” and deliver the baby, he said.

Larger babies can exceed the size of the mother’s bone structure, meaning the mother may be too small to deliver the baby vaginally, he said.

Some moms ask for their baby to be delivered by C-section, Thot said.

In part that’s because it allows moms to plan their delivery, he said. But it also allows them to avoid the labor pains.

Although C-sections sometimes are necessary, the procedure can be risky to both the mother and child, according to Dr. Maxine Hayes, Washington State Heath officer.

Women can face higher risks of infection and infertility and their newborns can be at higher risk for asthma and other respiratory problems, she said.

Women who have had a C-section are more likely to repeat the procedure if they have another baby, the study found.

Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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