Australia, along with many other developed countries, has experienced a dramatic increase in births by Cesarean section. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, about 32 per cent of all Australian births were given by C-section at the end of 2013.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no more than 5-10 per cent of all births be given via C-section. This means that birth in Australia exceeds the WHO's recommendation significantly.
When are C-sections necessary?
C-sections become necessary for a variety of reasons, and decisions regarding the safest method of delivery are made by doctors and midwives. Some mothers give birth by C-section due to stalled labour, preeclampsia, multiple pregnancies, past caesareans and other factors.
However, while this method of delivery can be life-saving in certain situations, it is not advisable for healthy, low-risk pregnancies, according to WHO. A caesarean section is a major surgery that requires weeks of recovery time on behalf of the mother, and runs the potential for numerous complications.
Infants also benefit from vaginal birth. The pressure exerted upon a baby as it passes through the birth canal squeezes the lungs in such a way that it expels amniotic fluid from the respiratory system. Some researchers speculate that this may reduce children's risk for developing asthma and other respiratory diseases.
"Being born primes your immune system," Professor Hannah Dahlen from the Australian College of midwives told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We know that vaginal birth is better for mother and baby – women are healthier and are less likely to die and have complications during the birth."
How does private health insurance factor in?
While Medicare will cover expectant mums for their deliveries, some women may want to look into private family health insurance so they have more options. C-section rates fluctuate between hospitals, so if you're a low-risk mother for whom having a natural birth is important, you may want the freedom to choose a doctor or midwife who shares your values.
The Royal Women's Hospital states that some studies have shown women with private health insurance have experienced higher satisfaction with their birth experience. Though maternal care in Australian public hospitals is of high quality, it is the option to choose the doctor with whom they feel most comfortable that makes private health insurance important to some expectant mothers.