There is a dramatic rise of unintended caesarean-section (C-section), a surgical operation to help mothers deliver a baby, the ministry of Health has warned.
The head of the Directorate of Preventive and Promotive Health in ministry, Dr Peter Cherutich, said caesarean-section births in both private and public hospitals are now at 50 per cent.
"We must conduct internal dialogue and interrogate why there is a dramatic rise of unintended caesarean-section births in both private and public hospitals. Most people who do C-section are members of the Kenya Medical Association," Dr Cherutich said during the 46th annual scientific conference in Mombasa.
The official said that doctors must come up with solutions to curb the rise of C-section within the norm of medical practices.
"The C-sections cut across the board, meaning rural and urban areas. There are circumstances when C-sections are intended and they save lives but they are associated with higher levels of morbidity. If it is not necessary, don't do it because the mother will stay in the hospital longer and there is a risk of infection," Dr Cherutich said.
The best approach, according to him, is for health workers to help expectant mothers deliver normally, teach them how to breastfeed and discharge from the hospital.
"I know there are women who prefer operation but we teach them it's not actually in their best interest to undergo C-section just because it's the thing to do," he added.
However, doctors shifted blame to expectant mothers who prefer the procedure to normal delivery.
"There is a misconception that doctors profit from C-section financially. But we review reasons for conducting the procedure such as a previous C-section, multiple gestation (triplets) and when the expectant mother is suffering from foetal distress," Dr Marjan Ramadhan said.
The consultant gynaecologist at Pandya Memorial Hospital in Mombasa urged the government to conduct an audit of doctors to find out who has performed C-section for profit.
"Doctors who practise good medicine cannot force C-section. The C-section should not go beyond 10 per cent of all deliveries but some expectant mothers force doctors to conduct the procedure because they don't want to bear the pain of childbirth," he told the Sunday Nation during an interview.
He said normal delivery traumatises the birth canal.
"They want to remain intact, so they demand for a C-section. The women are also blaming their men for pushing them into the procedure," he added.
Last year, the National Hospital Insurance Fund's (NHIF) pay-outs for caesarean-section births hit Sh1.2 billion amid concerns that hospitals could be pushing women to surgery for financial gain.
Official records showed that C-section accounted for 58.2 per cent of NHIF's maternity costs as a third of the women covered by the Fund opted for the operation.
In January, the NHIF chief executive, Mr Geoffrey Mwangi, said payments for C-section surpassed budgets, underlining how widespread its use has become in Kenya.