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Cesarean Birth Rates on the Decline

For the first time in 6 years, Cesarean birth rates are on the decline. A CDC study reported that Cesarean sections declined nationally by 2% in 2012. First-time Cesarean birth rates had increased each year between 2006 and 2012. However, according to 19 states that reported to the CDC in 2012, only 21.9% of first-time births involved Cesarean sections. This represents a return to the 2006 rate, and health advocates are hopeful this decline will continue.

Women who have Cesarean sections for their first births are likely to seek Cesarean sections voluntarily for all subsequent births. In fact, only 10% of women who had Cesarean sections for their first births have a vaginal birth for their second or subsequent births. About 33% of all births in the United States are Cesarean sections, approximately 21.9% of which are first-time births.

Recently, health officials and advocates have worked to curb interest in voluntary first-time Cesarean sections, and advocates are pleased with the CDC’s findings. Risks of birth injuries and infant mortality rates increase with Cesarean sections. In fact, the risks of pregnancy complications and infant mortality increase with each subsequent Cesarean. Health advocates have been working over the last several decades to decrease interest in Cesarean sections, touting the dangers of the procedure.

Cesarean sections are more traumatic for the baby, increase the risk of injury to the mother, and increase the risk of birth injury and death for the baby. Potential injuries to the mother include infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, prolonged recovery time, and scarring. Potential birth injuries to the baby include stillbirths, oxygen deprivation, injuries such as brachial plexus injuries, breathing problems, and increased need for intensive care. According to Dr. Mitchell Maiman, “Cesarean should only be resorted to when it’s necessary.”

Obstetricians, despite knowing the risks, have been pushing for more Cesarean sections for several reasons. First, malpractice lawsuits are on the rise related to birth injuries that occur during vaginal births, and doctors, out of fear of malpractice suits, prefer Cesarean sections. Second, Cesareans are relatively fast when compared to vaginal births. During vaginal births, obstetricians must stay with the mother for hours during delivery, and often times, due to complications, an emergency Cesarean is ordered anyway. Many malpractice suits originate from these complications and a failure of the doctor to order a Cesarean sooner. Many doctors try to bypass the long ordeal of a vaginal delivery and the need for an emergency Cesarean by ordering a Cesarean from the start.

According to Dr. Maiman, “After decades of climbing, there seems to be a hold to it. But we could do a lot better.” However, some states have seen dramatic declines. While the national average in 2012 was a 2% decline, Delaware, New York, North Dakota, and Oregon saw decreases in Cesareans ranging from 5% to 10%. Utah’s Cesarean rates fell by an astonishing 15%.

In addition, the closer the baby was to full term, the more dramatically Cesarean rates dropped. For instance, babies born at 38 weeks saw the biggest drop in Cesarean rates.

Health advocates hope that putting financial pressure on hospitals regarding Cesareans, as well as changing medical malpractice laws, could lead to an even further reduction in Cesarean rates.

If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic birth injury, either due to oxygen deprivation or other birth complication, please do not hesitate to contact Levin & Perconti to discuss your options.

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