Continuing a 12-year climb, cesarean deliveries reached a record high in 2008, accounting for almost one-third of the births in the United States, a new report shows.
The surgery rates for birth have been going up since 1996 across the board for all age groups and all ethnic groups according to researcher Michelle Osterman, co-author of the Annual Summary of Vital Statistics: 2008, compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The study was published online Dec. 20 and in the January print issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Although cesarean delivery is clearly called for in certain cases (if the mother has preeclampsia or is diabetic), often it carries greater risks than vaginal delivery, Osterman said.
"Vaginal delivery should be preferred to cesarean, where the complication rate is way higher," said Dr. Mitchell Maiman, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. "And with [subsequent] C-sections, complications go dramatically higher, bleeding, hysterectomy, even death."
Reasons for the trend, which has increased 56 percent since 1996, range from mother preferences to doctors' fears of lawsuits, experts said.
Efforts to counteract the C-section boom have resulted in growing support for VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), whereby a mother is given the option of delivering vaginally, even though the previous birth was via C-section.