Study: C-sections increase in Calif. by 50 percent

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Doctors tend to a newborn baby girl named Esther, delivered by C-section on board the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Naval hospital ship, on January 21, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Surgically-delivered babies, or cesarean births, increased by 50 percent in California during a 10-year period, according to a new study released Monday.

The report, issued by the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, focused on the decade from 1998 to 2008, during which the cesarean section rate in the state climbed from 22 percent to 33 percent of all births.

The study found the increase was not associated with any additional health benefits over normal vaginal childbirth. Instead, the authors attributed the rise mostly to early labor hospital admissions, to financial incentives for doctors who perform C-sections and to "awareness gaps" among pregnant women, clinicians and policymakers.

The study says the increase is of concern as cesarean births carry the potential for surgical complications, and high medical costs nearly double that of a vaginal birth. What's more, a patient who gives birth by cesarean faces a 90 percent likelihood that her subsequent births will also require the surgery.

Among the study's recommendations: that doctors, hospitals and insurers join to create a quality improvement program aimed at reducing cesareans among low-risk women.

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