The data were taken from 219 hospitals offering maternity care from 19 U.S. states between 2007 and 2009. In total, 6.4 million single live deliveries were included, with 34 percent being facilitated by C-sections. That’s nearly 2.2 million deliveries for selected hospitals within 2 years. In 2002, C-sections only comprised 27 percent of births in the same hospitals.
And it wasn’t just the C-section statistics that changed. Vaginal births also decreased between 2007 and 2009, implying that fewer babies are being delivered by birth canal alone.
When the organization first began measuring C-section rates in 1965, an average of 4.4 births out of every 100 were C-section deliveries. This figure has increased since then, but it’s clear the quality of maternal care and number of hospitals have jumped as well.
During C-sections, doctors make incisions into a woman’s abdomen and uterus to retrieve the baby. Oftentimes, C-sections are necessary for deliveries that may compromise the health of the mother or baby. It’s also true that women carrying more than one baby or those who previously had the procedure are more likely to receive a C-section.
So what accounts for this rise in C-sections?
Another study shows that C-sections might be more popular for many reasons. For one, women are generally having children later in life, which increases birth complications and the likelihood of needing C-sections. In addition, the surgery allows mothers to time births for their convenience.
Doctors seem to contribute to the trend as well since they’re more likely to give women who want C-sections the procedure to avoid possible malpractice charges if the vaginal birth doesn’t go as planned, according to the report.
Despite the general safety of C-sections, the surgeries carry a list of risks as well. Excessive bleeding, blood clotting, emergency hysterectomies, infections, damage to the abdomen and other organs, and longer recovery time are a few effects some women experience during C-section procedures. There are also potential dangers for the baby, including getting cut or developing respiratory problems. Though vaginal birth poses risks too, there are more known complications for C-sections.
The surgery isn’t cheap either. In 2003, the average cost for C-sections was $11,500 — roughly twice as expensive as vaginal birth costs, according to one government report.