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Why More Moms are Having C-Sections

cesarean sections on the rise

The reasons for more c sections

In an early release article in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, Yale researchers report the results of a new, large study examining the rise in c-section rates in the U.S.

After examining records from over 32,000 births, the researchers found that the c-section rate went from 26% in 2003 to 36.5% in 2009. The lowest rates are in Utah, highest in New Jersey.

Half of the rise was attributable to a rise in second-time cesarean births, since most doctors and hospitals encourage moms who have had a c-section before to use the method in subsequent births.

But the other 50% resulted from a rise in first-time cesareans. When the researchers looked into the reasons doctors do c-sections, they found that 32% were due to “nonreassuring fetal status,” for example, an abnormal heart rate during labor.

Elective c-sections have been blamed for the increase before, so in this study, what percentage of c-sections were at the request of the mom?

Maternal request accounted for 8% of the increase in c-sections since 2001. Other reasons included labor arrest disorders (18%), multiple babies (16%), suspected macrosomia (10%), preeclampsia (10%), and maternal-fetal conditions (5%).

The study found that objective reasons for c-sections, like placenta previa and breech babies stayed stable over time, but c-sections for more subjective reasons, like fetal distress, or slow labor have gone up over the years.

Also interesting is that more doctors do c-sections now because they suspect big babies, or because of multiple births, when the researchers say these conditions have been “relatively stable” in the population over recent years.

So doctors are more often making the call to do a c-section on their subjective opinion when things start to slow down, baby goes into distress, or the baby is judged to be too big.

Is that a good thing? Consider the fact that the infant mortality rate hasn’t gone down since 2001.

Image: flickr

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