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The Numbers Are In: 1 In 3 Births Is A C-Section

The numbers are in: Nearly 1 in 3 births in 2008 was a cesarean section.

African American mothers were most likely to deliver this way: 34.5% of black women had c-sections compared to 32% of white women and 31% of Hispanic women.

The c-section rate in the US has skyrocketed over the years; since 1996 it’s gone up 56%. All this according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The reasons for the increase are myriad:

America has a troubled maternity care system driven by malpractice laws and big business rather than evidence-based practice. There’s an obesity “epidemic” which can lead to increased problems with childbirth. There’s a lack of support for normal birth that plays out with an overuse of inductions and other medical  interventions that increase the odds of c-sections. Doctors are reluctant to allow women to attempt at vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC) even though the evidence has pointed to the potential health benefits of this option and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued a statement earlier this year encouraging more doctors to remain open to VBAC.

ACOG is not happy with these numbers. The college’s vice chairman George Macones said, “The rate is going up but we are not really improving the health of babies or moms.”

Michelle Osterman, one of the co-authors of the report said obesity may be part of the reason black woman have more c-sections, but there are likely other factors: “Black women have consistently had these higher rates since 1994. We’re trying to figure out why. There’s no one answer.”  According to TIME magazine, in 2005, a study showed that c-sections were more common for black women, even among low-risk first births.

Desirre Andrews, president of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) offers the following bottom line for expecting mothers:

“Any woman having a baby should care about the cesarean rate. They should be concerned about the likelihood of ending up in the OR because we know what is healthiest is unfettered birth. Women are starting to believe they can’t have babies. It’s becoming the cultural norm for women to believe they’re broken.”

Read more here, about how to reduce your odds of having a c-section.

photo: soldierant/Flickr

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