Giving birth by Csection doubles in South Africa

APRIL 7, 2015

The 2013/2014 District Health Barometer report, released at the end of 2014 notes that the South Africa's Csection rate has doubled since 2000/2001, the Department of Health says.

This means one out of four women is delivering their babies through C-section, 23.9% in the public sector and 73.9% in the private sector. This is compared to a national rate of 12.5% in 2000/2001.

The Barometer warns that this rate is unnecessarily high and a matter of concern as bleeding during and after Csections remains one of the leading causes of maternal deaths, due to obstetric haemorrhage.

The Health Department figures show that 8% of all maternal deaths in the public sector due to haemorrhage happened as a result of women bleeding during C-sections and 27% of these deaths can be ascribed to women bleeding after Csections.

Statistics from Fedhealth Medical Scheme's data warehouse over the last 3 years confirm this finding, showing that of all its deliveries in South Africa, 68.5 % are performed through C-section.

This is across both public and private facilities. Although this percentage is much lower in Europe and the United States, globally C-section statistics are on the rise.

According to the NHS Foundation Trust in London, the average C-section deliveries in the UK are 25%,well above the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 15%. In contrast, countries such as Kenya have a C-section rate of 4%, India 8.5%, Ghana 6.9% and Zimbabwe only 4.8%.

According to Fedhealth Principal Officer, the South African statistics are somewhat alarming. There are many complex reasons for the high rate of C-section births, including the fact that hospital facilities are becoming more 'medicalised' with doctors specialising in a variety of surgical disciplines such as obstetrics and gynaecology and South African women are increasingly requesting C-section deliveries.

The report also cites delays in the time it takes doctors to attend to obstetric emergencies as one of the reasons some doctors prefer to do scheduled C-section deliveries rather than assisting with natural births. This has been indicated as a key driver of the C-section trend.