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Why C-sections is a death trap for pregnant mothers in Africa, its 50 times risky

By Newsline Reporter

While a cesarean section(cs)may not be part of your birth plan, your doctor may recommend one for a variety of reasons.

Experts believe that, though it’s painless, it has complications in future pregnancies.

There are far fewer risks to your baby during a C-section. Babies delivered by cesarean are more likely to develop breathing issues, though, especially if your C-section is performed before 39 weeks. That’s because labor helps clear your baby’s lung of fluid.

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most caregivers agree that cesareans should be planned only when there’s a solid medical reason for avoiding a vaginal delivery.

The in-hospital maternal mortality rate following a Cesarean delivery in Africa may be 50 times higher than in high-income countries.

These were the findings of the African Surgical Outcomes Study that followed more than 3,500 mothers from 22 African countries during a week of surgery in 2016.

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The study found that maternal mortality rate was 5.43 per 1,000 operations, compared to 0.1 per 1,000 operations in the UK. And one in six women developed complications following Cesarean delivery, which is nearly three times the rate in the US. Bleeding in the period shortly before, during, and immediately after giving birth, was the most common complication. And it had the highest attributable risk for maternal mortality.

Although the complication rate was three times that of a high-income country, mortality was 50 times that of a high-income country. This suggests that a lot more complications result in death in Africa. When a complication results in death, this is known as “failure to rescue”. Mothers in Africa appear to be particularly susceptible to it, when compared to high-income countries.

Unfortunately, it isn’t only the mothers who are suffering in Africa. The in-hospital mortality of babies after Caesarean delivery was double that of high-income countries. There were indicators that the risk of subsequent cerebral palsy or epilepsy for the babies who survived Cesarean delivery, are between two and 11 times higher in Africa when compared to a high-income country.

These findings tell a sad story of life in Africa. Many families are incomplete, as a result of either a mother or child who died in childbirth, and for those children who survive a Cesarean delivery, a number of them will have long-term morbidity.

So what can be done to improve this situation? Unfortunately, there will be no “quick-fix”, as this is a complex, multifactorial problem. It speaks to a number of problems that need to addressed in Africa, if we are to improve outcomes for mothers and their children.

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The first problem is poor access to Caesarean deliveries. In Africa, the Caesarean section rate is too low. There is a minimum threshold of the number of Caesarean sections per population to ensure optimal obstetric care. Most countries in Africa don’t reach this threshold. The result is that many mothers who would benefit from Caesarean section don’t have this option.

Secondly, access to surgical care is limited. This is reflected in the observation that 3 out of 4 mothers presenting for Caesarean deliveries present as emergencies. This may partly reflect the limitations in the current antenatal services available.

The role of antenatal care is to monitor and identify both mothers and babies at risk. Early identification of those at risk could result in an elective Caesarean section in a more controlled environment. This, in turn, would lead to better outcomes for the mother and the baby.

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But it appears that in the current antenatal environment in Africa a number of mothers at risk aren’t identified early enough in the community.

Another contributing factor is that there are limited skilled human resources to provide safe obstetric care in Africa. It’s generally accepted that to provide a safe Caesarean section, at least 20 specialists (obstetricians, surgeons and anaesthetists) are required per 100,000 population. In the African cohort it was found to be <1 specialist per 100,000 population.

This creates a stressful and dangerous working environment. The majority of mothers are sick and present as emergencies, yet there is insufficient skilled staff to deal with the workload.

Finally, it’s clear that mothers are dying predominantly secondary to bleeding around the time of delivery. This may be for many reasons; bleeding may not be identified early enough (both before and after surgery) due to limited human resources (resulting in “failure to rescue”). This could also be due to insufficient resources, such as limited drugs to stop bleeding or limited access to blood products.

Is there reason for hope? I believe there is. The African Surgical Outcomes Study network, which produced the study, is a group of over 1000 clinician investigators who now span over 30 African countries. They are committed to improving surgical outcomes in Africa.

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Next year, the group hopes to conduct another large trial across Africa which will aim to decrease maternal bleeding. The hope is that this will also help bring down the numbers of mothers dying at a result of childbirth.

The network aims to extend its footprint into the community to ensure that “at-risk” patients are identified early, and high-risk patients are followed adequately after surgery. Improving maternal and surgical outcomes in Africa certainly demands a large collaborative effort.

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After the C-section

“Recovery from a C-section isn’t easy,” Economy says.

The typical hospital stay for a C-section is four days, compared to the two that new moms need after a vaginal birth, Economy says.

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Immediately after the procedure is over, you’ll still have a catheter in, the effects from the regional anesthesia will linger for a few hours — which means you’ll be numb from the waist down — and you’ll need narcotics for the pain.

About Edwin Ochieng

Edwin Ochieng is living true to the calling of Journalism, He is passionate about issues of Business and Politics. Edwin Ochieng is a graduate from St Paul University and East African School of Media Studies (EASMS).

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