MotherBaby Network

advocacy and commentary with a focus on Lane County, Oregon

U.S. Cesarean Sections at an All-Time High

Weeks after the NIH statement encouraging increased access to vaginal birth after cesarean, the CDC National Center for Health Statistics released Recent Trends in Cesarean Delivery in the United States. The 2007 national cesarean section rate reached 32%, the highest U.S. rate ever recorded and higher than most other industrialized countries.

Findings

  • The 2007 rate of 32% is more than double what it was in 1996 at 21%. The number of cesarean births increased 71% from 1996 (797,119) to 2007 (1,367,049).
  • Cesareans are up for all women irrespective of age, race, state of residence or gestational age of infant(s) at birth.
  • Cesarean rates increased in all U.S. states, and by more than 70% in six states. Oregon’s cesarean rate increased 67% from 16.9% in 1996 to 28.2 in 2007.
  • Women under age 25 experienced the greatest increase in cesarean deliveries from 2000 to 2007.
  • Cesarean rates increased for infants of all gestational ages.

Key Take Away

In every state of the union, women of all ages and ethnic groups are affected by the increasing rate of cesarean section birth. Accordingly, all women need to know about cesarean section.

Why are cesarean sections cause for concern?

The most frequently performed surgical procedure in U.S. hospitals, cesarean section is major abdominal surgery. When medically necessary, it can be a lifesaving intervention for both mother and baby.

However, cesarean section is increasingly under scrutiny for overuse. When performed as a non-medically indicated intervention, it is associated with surgical complications including maternal re-hospitalization and newborn complications requiring NICU care.

Cesareans also introduce long-term risks to future fertility and subsequent pregnancies. Furthermore, women’s choices for subsequent births are deeply constrained by providers, facilities and insurers that formally or informally ban vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) for non-medical reasons. For more information, see VBAC Policies in US Hospitals. In short, unnecessary cesarean introduces considerable complexity into a woman’s future reproductive life.

Press coverage following release of the CDC report

The New York Times

National Public Radio

Birth after cesarean resources

International Cesarean Awareness Network

VBAC.com

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