The number of women choosing to undergo Caesarean section (CS) is on the rise, reports have shown.
CS is a surgical operation to help a woman deliver a baby.
An indication of the trend emerged from recent data by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), which showed more than 34 per cent of its payments for maternity healthcare for its members involved CS cases.
The data indicated the number of women seeking CS had risen sharply and was almost at par with those that have normal deliveries.
In 2014/2015, NHIF indicated it paid out health insurance maternity claims for a total of 61,420 births nationally, with 20,773 (34 per cent) of the new mothers undergoing C-section.
The public insurer paid out at least Sh390 million for CS alone last year and the figures are expected to rise further this year.
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Recently, the NHIF Board increased the amount allocated to CS from Sh18,000 to Sh30,000, while that for normal delivery was raised to Sh10,000 from Sh6,000. This is expected to result in more women opting for the procedure since they could not afford it in the past.
The latest data from the World Health Organisation, collected between 2003 and 2011 in Kenya, showed the percentage of CS cases compared to successful natural births rose from 4.3 per cent in 1993 to 5.8 per cent in 2011 with the figures expected to rise significantly further.
WHO also indicated that CS was more common among urban women with high incomes. In urban areas, CS cases were 2.69 per cent of the total successful births among the urban poor and 11.16 per cent among the urban rich.
In addition, CS cases among the rural poor were 3.21 per cent of total live births compared to 9.41 per cent among the rural rich.
According to WHO, CS cases would even be higher in Kenya if more women could access and afford it, in spite of the procedure being unnecessary in most instances except for a few emergency cases.
But doctors preferred that women give birth naturally and the CS to only be used as a last resort in emergency cases.
Private facilities in the country were also being accused of pushing women into CS for financial reasons, since the procedures resulted in more income for the facilities than natural birth. The procedure was often recommended for women perceived to be rich or in possession of generous health insurance covers.
Estimates indicated the number of CS cases among Kenyan women was rising fast as more feared the pain and possible complications associated with natural birth.
Other possible complications that might arise include tearing, long hours in labour, the psychological and physical pain of pushing, among others.