C-Section Rates Reach Record High in US

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
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A staggering 34% of all births in the United States are now performed by C-section reveals a new report.

According to a study performed by HealthGrades, an independent surveyor of hospital quality outcomes, the highest rates of C-sections, or Cesarean sections, were in Florida and New Jersey where nearly 40% of women receive an operation to deliver their babies. Utah on other hand had the lowest rate around 22%.

“C-sections are rising, and there needs to be a little bit more scrutiny from the person who is having the C-section as well as doctors and hospitals," said report author Dr. Divya Cantor, the senior physician consultant for HealthGrades.

“Not Surprising, but Dramatic"

Back in 1965 when the first C-section rate was evaluated in the US it was only a mere 4.5%. By 2002 this number had climbed to 27% and then between 2002 and 2009 the C-section rate rose to an all-time high of 34%.

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“The dramatic increase in C-secton rates has been the subject of much controversy,” wrote the authors of the HealthGrades report. “In fact, according to the Joint Commission, 'There are no data that high rates improve any [birth] outcomes, yet the C-section rates continue to rise.'”

Dr. Alan Fleischman, the medical director for the March of Dimes a non-profit organization that advocates for babies, told Health Day that although these statistics are jaw-dropping, they are not surprising. "We at the March of Dimes have great concerns not just about the rate, but about what's driving it," he told HealthDay in an interview.

Why C-Sections Continue to Rise

The HealthGrades report cited a 2011 Yale study which found that approximately half of all C-sections were due to the women having a prior cesarean birth. Many physicians recommend against women having a vaginal birth if she has a prior history of a c-section due to increased risks.

Other reasons given by the authors include:

  • Increase in labor practices such as induction and epidural use in early labor which increase risk for C-sections
  • Provider and mother's timing convenience
  • Increase in older women giving birth which increases complications during pregnancy and delivery
  • Increase in fertility treatments resulting in multiple pregnancies (twins or triplets) for which C-sections are routinely recommended for birth
  • Limited patient understanding of potential complications of C-section births
  • Physician fear of malpractice

The bottom line is that although C-sections are generally safe, there are serious risks of complications such as blood loss and respiratory problems for both the mother and baby. Physicians should be carefully weighing the risks and benefits of a vaginal versus a cesarean birth and discuss these options with the patient.

Image Source: Morgue File

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