CNN reports the overall birth rate in the U.S. has declined while the cesarean section rate continues to rise. The data, which is from 2008 like most recent completed national medical statistics, shows that nearly 1/3 of all pregnancies in the U.S. result in cesarean–or 32.1%. The World Health Organization states that there is no medical reason why a nation would have an overall cesarean rate of more than 10-15%.
The CNN report also notes that the cesarean rate has risen by more than 50% since 1996. An amazing leap in just 12 years. Many researchers note that the restriction on VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) and instead opting for elective repeat cesareans following ACOG’s 1999 alteration of their statement on the safety of the practice. Earlier this year, the National Institutes for Health held a conference on VBAC safety, showing that most studies conducted before 1999, as well as more recent data, suggests attempting non-induced vaginal delivery after having a prior cesarean section is not only safe for mom and baby, but may actually be safer than having one or more repeat cesareans. ACOG has changed its stance on VBAC safety following the conference, but it will most likely take years to have the standard practices in hospitals throughout the U.S. widely accommodate VBACs. Still, there is some hope that this change will see an overall decrease in cesarean rates across the country.
Last week, CNN correspondent Elizabeth Cohen shared the story of Aneka, a mom who had been told that her pelvis was too small to deliver her baby vaginally and was rushed off for a cesarean, within their programing on Empowered Patients. When it was time to deliver her second baby, Aneka was told she had to have a cesarean. With her third–same story. Aneka became pregnant with her fourth child last year, and after feeling robbed of experiencing birth while watching The Business of Being Born, Aneka sought out a midwife who would support a vaginal delivery at home. When her doctor called after missing her cesarean appointment, Aneka simply told her she was staying at home.
Unfortunately, Aneka’s story is not an uncommon one in the U.S. One in three babies born in the U.S. will be delivered via cesarean, pushing the c-section rates for subsequent pregnancies to end in cesarean, and driving the overall cesarean rate up. It is disheartening to see the rate steadily rise above what is considered safe, even as birth rates continue to drop in the midst of the recession.