By Brenda Wilson
Nearly one-third of all births in the United States are by cesarean section, according to data just out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cesareans steadily rose in the last decade, after declining in the early 1990s. C-sections then held for a few years up to 1998, when they accounted for 21 percent of all deliveries.
Since then, though, cesareans have increased each year, rising to 1.4 million in 2007, or 32 percent of all deliveries, the highest proportion on record. Rates of cesareans in recent years have increased for women, regardless of race, age or location in the U.S. The analysis comes from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
Experts say part of the recent increase can be explained by more older women having children and more multiple births.
But the big increases following the year 2000 have been attributed to guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization recommended that a surgical team be present at all vaginal births after a woman has previously given birth by cesarean. It's a standard many hospitals -- especially those in rural areas -- have trouble meeting.
Earlier this month, a panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health recommended those guidelines be reassessed.
Lead author of the CDC report, Fay Menacker, a statistician at the NCHS, told Shots, "It is very important to monitor the rate of cesareans in this country, because it is a major surgical procedure that affects the health of women and infants."
While every part of the U.S. has seen a rise in C-sections since 1996, the current rates vary a fair amount by state. Alaska, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah have rates at less than 25 percent. Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and and New Jersey are some of the states on the high side, with rates topping 35 percent.