A recent study by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) sheds light on a concerning trend: a significant increase in C-section deliveries in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh from 2016 to 2021.

Published in the reputable journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, the study examines the rise in C-section deliveries, a surgical procedure where incisions are made in the mother’s abdomen to deliver babies. While crucial in certain medical situations, unnecessary C-sections can lead to various health complications and strain healthcare resources.

The research team, led by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Madras, delved into factors influencing C-section rates. Surprisingly, they found that the choice of delivery location, whether public or private, had the most significant impact on the likelihood of a C-section. This suggests that clinical necessity might not always be the driving force behind surgical deliveries.

In Tamil Nadu, where C-section rates were higher, it was observed that poorer women were more likely to undergo C-sections in private hospitals. Conversely, in Chhattisgarh, the wealthier population showed a higher preference for C-sections.

Over the five-year period, the prevalence of C-sections increased from 17.2% to 21.5% in both states, with private healthcare facilities witnessing a sharper rise, reaching almost half of all deliveries.

Several factors contribute to this surge, including better-educated urban women opting for C-sections, and a higher likelihood among overweight and older mothers. Importantly, the increase seems largely influenced by non-clinical factors, such as patient preferences, socio-economic status, and the practices of risk-averse physicians.

The study also highlights disparities in C-section rates between public and private healthcare facilities, emphasizing a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists in public hospitals, particularly in Chhattisgarh.

Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) supported the findings, revealing a departure from the World Health Organization’s recommended C-section rate of 10-15%.

The researchers underscore the urgent need for further analysis and corrective measures, especially concerning the disproportionately high rate of C-sections among poor women in private hospitals in Tamil Nadu. This calls for a closer examination of the clinical necessity of these procedures and measures to ensure equitable access to safe delivery options.