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U.S. Cesarean Rate Drops for First Time in More Than a Decade

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By Jill Arnold

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics just released the latest birth statistics for the United States. According to the report, Births: Preliminary Data for 2010, the national cesarean rate dropped from 32.9% to 32.8%. This is the first time in more than a decade that the rate has not increased.

The following are highlights from the report:


• The birth rate for teenagers has declined for the last three years and 17 out of the past 19 years, falling to 34.3 births per 1,000 teenagers ages 15-19 in 2010. This is a 9 percent decline from 2009 and the lowest rate ever recorded in nearly seven decades of collecting data. Birth rates for younger and older teenagers and for all race/ethnic groups reached historic lows in 2010.

• The cesarean delivery rate dropped for the first time in over a decade.  In 2010, the cesarean rate was 32.8, down slightly from 32.9 in 2009. 

• The overall fertility rate as well as the total number of births in the U.S. declined for the third straight year in 2010.  The general fertility rate fell 3 percent from 66.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15-44 in 2009 to 64.1 in 2010.  The total number of births also declined 3 percent, from 4,130,665 in 2009 to 4,000,279 in 2010. 

• The total number of births to unmarried mothers declined for the second year in a row in 2010 (1,633,785, down from 1,693,658 in 2009), as did the rate of births per 1,000 unmarried mothers (47.7, down from 49.9 in 2009).  Also, the percentage of all births to unmarried mothers declined slightly in 2010 (40.8 percent, down from 41 percent in 2009.

• The birth rate for women in their early twenties fell 6 percent in 2010, and the rates also fell for women in their late twenties and thirties. However, the birth rate for women in their early forties increased in 2010 by 2 percent to the highest rate since 1967.

• The preterm birth rate declined for the fourth straight year in 2010, to just under 12 percent of all births (11.99) – a 6 percent drop from 2009.

• The low birthweight rate was essentially unchanged between 2009 and 2010 at less than 8.2 percent in 2010, but is down slightly from the record high of 8.3 in 2006.




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Reader Comments (6)

That's good news! I guess the campaign for the awareness on teen pregnancy in the US is effective.

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Wieners

there should be more focus on supporting teen mothers in birth and post partum rather than preventing

November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKassedi

It's barely a blip in cesarean rate, but I will take the downward trend! Fewer very young mothers and fewer preemies = excellent news.

November 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKK

Love it!

While a .1% drop seems like poor cause for celebration and even poorer cause for speculation, I'm in the mindset where hey - it didn't rise! Also in the mindset where I muse about whether the growing focus on preventing early elective deliveries is impacting induction rates and thus made a teensy little dent in the c-section rate. Very curious what happens with 2011.

I wonder, in real numbers, how many is that 0.1%? While that is a ridiculous "accomplishment" (in terms of the percentage), just think of what that means for each of those women who weren't cut!

November 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarion

A decrease is always welcome but the decrease is meaningless without further analysis. For example, there was also a 0.18% decrease in preterm births and a 0.1% decrease in first time mothers compared to women who have already given birth. Preterm births run a cesarean delivery rate of about 65% and first time mothers are much more likely to have a cesarean than second time mothers thus our decrease may only be a reflection of the women who gave birth in 2010 and not an improvement in the methods used by obstetrical care providers.

4,000,000 births: 10% = 400,000, 1% = 40,000, 0.1% = 4,000. 0.18% less preterm births is 7,200 births with a rate of perhaps 25% instead of 65% and this would result in 2,880 less cesareans than 2009. 0.1% less first time mothers (4,000) with a cesarean delivery rate of 30% is 1,200 less cesareans than 2009. These 4,080 less cesareans can account for the 0.1% decrease in the cesarean delivery rate.

If you want to applaud an improvement in methods, then you will need a Cesarean Birth Measure and not a cesarean delivery rate. A Cesarean Birth Measure takes into account the characteristics of the women who give birth whereas a cesarean delivery rate ignores the risk factors that result in cesarean delivery. I have spent the last five years developing a measure that can finally enable obstetrical care providers to find the best methods and my tools are free for resident training. I fear that with this potentially flawed impression that the drop in the cesarean delivery rate is due to an improvement in the methods being used by obstetrical care providers that the scrutiny of obstetrical care providers will be relaxed. A relaxation in this scrutiny may result in an increase in unnecessary cesarean deliveries.

November 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo San Roman, M.D.
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