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U.S. Cesarean Rate Reaches Record High, Rises for 13th Consecutive Year

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by Jill

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released the report Births: Preliminary Data for 2009 this morning, which shows that the U.S. cesarean delivery rate rose to a record high of 32.9 percent in 2009. The national cesarean rate, which is up from 32.3 in 2008, has risen for 13 consecutive years, beginning in 1996 when the rate was 20.7.

The total number of registered births dropped 3 percent from 4,247,694 in 2008 to a preliminary estimate of 4,131,019 in 2009. An estimated total of 1,359,105 cesarean sections were performed in 2009.

Cesarean section is the most common major surgical procedure performed in the United States.

According to the report, cesarean delivery rates rose between 2008 and 2009 among women of all age groups 20 years and older, and all race and ethnicity groups. Non-Hispanic black women saw the biggest increase (3 percent) in cesarean deliveries in 2009, which is consistent with Time Magazine’s December 20, 2010, report that black women received cesareans in disproportionately high numbers compared to women of other ethnicities in 2008.

In 2008, black women had more C-sections than any other group — 34.5% delivered via cesarean in contrast to 32% of whites and 31% of Hispanics.

Is it because black women have more troubled pregnancies? Probably not; in 2005, a study showed that black women had a better chance of having a C-section, even among low-risk first births. C-sections can be more common when the mother has diabetes or hypertension or has labor induced, yet those conditions didn’t appear to explain the discrepancy.

The CDC NCHS also reported that half of women 40 years and older received cesarean sections in 2009.



United States Cesarean Rate, 1970 -2009

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Total births and cesarean rates by race, 2008-09


Total low birthweight and very low birthweight by race, 2008-09

Total preterm birth and very preterm births, 2008-09


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Cesarean rate posts on The Unnecesarean




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Reader Comments (5)

Just, wow. So disheartening, and I don't see the trend reversing in the near future, because obstetrics continues to be practiced defensively rather than in an evidence-based manner.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKK

Not surprising at all, sadly. A long way to go before the tide begins to turn.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

what happened in the early nineties that allowed the rate to fall for a little while?

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWrangler Mama

Encouraging VBAC.

December 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill

Jill, I can always count on you for my daily dose of depression. Well, I guess technically it's not YOUR fault. :)

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAugusta
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