The most common operation done worldwide is the cesarean or C-section. Cesarean delivery is lifesaving for obstructed labor and other obstetrical emergencies; however, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks of complications and overuse can be harmful to both mothers and newborns. There were about 22.9 million cesarean deliveries worldwide in 2012. Based on older analyses from the mid-1980s, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that cesarean delivery rates should not exceed 10 to 15 per 100 live births.
In a study in the December 1 issue of JAMA, Harvard researchers examine the relationship between cesarean delivery rates and maternal and infant death, and other adverse outcomes in children following planned cesarean delivery. The results indicate that the optimal cesarean delivery rate in relation to maternal and neonatal mortality is approximately 19 per 100 live births. Higher cesarean delivery rates were not associated with better outcomes in mothers and children.