Canada's Caesarean Rate at Record
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
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
"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
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
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:
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)
Contact: Claudia Villeneuve
ICAN Education Director
p) 780- 444- 3041
c) 780- 932- 8814
Toronto, Ontario, , Canada Tel: 416–964–5735
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