A third of babies born in Malta were delivered by caesarean section

Of the 3,590 children born in Malta, 1,158 children were delivered through caesarean section in 2017

32% of babies were delivered by c-section
32% of babies were delivered by c-section

The rate of caesarean births in Malta remained more than double the level recommended by the World Health Organisation, figures released in Parliament show.

Last year's numbers show that 32% of all babies born in Malta were delivered through caesarean section, one of the highest rates in the EU.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, a country’s rate of c-section births should remain between 10 and 15%.

Out of 3,590 births, 1,158 children were born through caesarean between January and October last year, Health Minister Chris Fearne said in response to a parliamentary question by PN MP Maria Deguara.

In 2017, 85.4% of c-section operations involved spinal anaesthesia and 13.2% made use of general anaesthesia. In 1.4% of the cases, the mother made use of both spinal and general anaesthesia.

The remaining 2,432 births were comprised of 2,272 normal vaginal births, four through forceps delivery, 155 ventouse deliveries, and one case of breech delivery.

Parliamentary figures also show that 6,772 caesarean births were performed between 2012 and 2016.

The WHO had previously criticised Malta for its high rate of c-sections, citing risks of complications. On the other hand, obstetricians say that WHO recommendations do not take newborn morbidity into account, and that Maltese women have the highest rates of obesity in Europe.

In 2015, Head of the University’s Department of Obstetrics Professor Charles Savona-Ventura told this newspaper that “a c-section is a poor price to pay to safeguard the newborn from complications,” including “significant life-changing morbid conditions.”

The high rate of obesity and the fact that Maltese women are on average shorter than their European counterparts should also be taken into consideration. These factors promote foetal growth, resulting in big babies, prolonged labour, and a higher risk of the foetus being deprived of oxygen, the professor said

“These women have an option – to persist in achieving a vaginal delivery and risk a severely damaged child or to intervene with a caesarean section,” Savona-Ventura had said.