About A Third of Births, Even For First-Time Moms, Are Now By Cesarean

The latest snapshot of how women give birth in the United States is sobering. Almost a third of women giving birth for the first time have C-sections. In the late '90s, about 1 in 5 of all deliveries were by cesarean.

If there's ever going to be progress in reducing the frequency of cesarean sections in this country, it sure will take a while.

The latest snapshot of how women give birth in the United States is sobering. Almost a third of women giving birth for the first time have C-sections. In the late '90s, about 1 in 5 of all deliveries were by cesarean.

One reason for the high proportion of C-sections now: 44 percent of attempted vaginal deliveries were induced, a decision which is twice as likely to lead to a cesarean. The medical records don't show whether the procedure was medically necessary.

"One message from this study is that physicians should use induction more judiciously," researcher Dr. Jun Zhang, told WebMD. "Another message is that they should probably slow down."

The findings, culled from the medical records of more than 230,000 births in the last decade, appear in the current American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Some of the factors behind the rise of cesareans, now at the highest rate ever, are more older and obese moms, more twins and other multiple births, bigger babies and longer labor.

A surprising finding, according to the researchers, was that first-time moms were about as likely to have cesareans as women who'd previously had one.

"To make a significant impact on the high cesarean delivery rate in the United States, the focus should be preventing unnecessary primary cesarean deliveries..." the researchers say.

Their recommendations include:

  • Reducing the rate of cesareans associated with induced labor.
  • Coming up with standardized criteria for when to perform a c-section.
  • Upping the odds that women who've had a cesarean will get the chance to try a vaginal delivery.

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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