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News Release

Canada's Caesarean Rate at Record High
Millions spent on preventable surgeries

July 26, 2007



The number of caesarean sections in Canada is again at a record high, reports the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) in their 2007 Health Indicators report. Consumer health groups are concerned. "Everything we know about caesareans supports reducing the number for this major surgery," says Connie Thompson, President of the International Caesarean Awareness Network in Canada (ICAN Canada).

In Canada, 26.3% of women delivered babies by caesarean in 2005 - 2006, increased from 25.6% in 2004 - 2005. However, there was huge variation between health regions (17.8% to 36.8%), and provinces and territories (8.2% to 30.4%). Common reasons given to justify the rise in caesarean sections are that women are having children later in life, thus increasing pregnancy risk and the chance of birth complications, or that women are choosing to have caesareans for personal convenience. None of these factors explain the wide variation in caesarean rates across Canada.

"Medically unnecessary caesareans happen every day," says Ruth Wadley, a mother of 3 in Edmonton. "I was told by my OB that if I showed up at the hospital I would be sectioned." Ms. Wadley delivered her first two children by caesarean and was planning a VBAC for her third last month. "I was given a zero percent chance of ever giving birth naturally but I felt I deserved the opportunity to try," Ruth explains. "I hired a professional midwife and had a perfectly normal birth at home."

The report also states, "Since unnecessary caesarean section delivery increases maternal morbidity and mortality and is associated with higher costs, caesarean section rates are often used to monitor clinical practices with an implicit assumption that lower rates indicate more appropriate, as well as more efficient, care." The World Health Organization (WHO) states that a rate over 10-15% means that unnecessary caesareans are being done.

The report "Giving Birth in Canada: The Costs" from CIHI last year gave the cost of a caesarean as $6000 ($4600 for woman plus $1400 for baby), compared with $3600 ($2800 for woman plus $800 for baby) for a normal birth. With over 343,000 births in Canada in 2006, if WHO guidelines were followed, over $93 million could be saved.

"Put the two together," says Connie Thompson, "and it is clear that many of the caesareans being done in Canada are preventable, risk the health of mother and baby, and cost millions of dollars for our overstretched healthcare system. It is time for a change."


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Further Information

About ICAN
ICAN Canada is a nonprofit organization that works to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary caesareans through education, providing support for caesarean recovery and promoting vaginal birth after caesarean. Local chapters across Canada hold education and support meetings for people interested in caesarean prevention and recovery. For support contact ICAN Canada at  www.ican-online.ca, phone (780) 444-3041 or email canada@ican-online.org.

Caesarean risks
ICAN Canada recognizes that when a caesarean is medically necessary, it can be a lifesaving technique for both mother and baby, and worth the risks involved. Increased risks to babies include: low birth weight; prematurity; respiratory problems; and cuts from the surgery. Increased risks to women include: death, hemorrhage; infection; hysterectomy; surgical mistakes; re-hospitalization; scar separation, placental problems and stillbirth in future pregnancies. For the latest 2006 research on the risks of caesareans, see:
http://www.icanonline.org/index.php?option=com_kb&Itemid=41&page=articles&articleid=9&phpMyAdmin=S8JabxqXt2KViFm2wwq%2CJdgdHI7

CIHI Report
For a copy of the full 2007 Health Indicators report and the table of cesarean rates for every health region in Canada (pages 56-57) visit
http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/dispPage.jsp?cw_page=PG_770_E&cw_topic=770&cw_rel=AR_152_E

 

Contact: Claudia Villeneuve
ICAN Education Director
p) 780- 444- 3041
c) 780- 932- 8814
education@ican-online.org
www.ican-online.ca

 


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