Few topics are as controversial among mothers as the steadily rising rate of cesarean births in the United States in recent years. But here's some news perhaps we can all agree is good: For the first time since 1996, the c-section rate in the U.S. has actually gone down. That's right, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, 32.8 percent of all births here in the U.S. were by c-section -- slightly down from 2009, when 32.9 percent of births were c-section deliveries.
Whether those numbers reflect a reduction in elective c-sections, rather than in those that are medically required, is unclear. Either way, even though the decline is small, it's undeniably a step in the right direction.
Even those of us who have had c-sections (I've had two, the first an emergency c, the second because my doctor and I agreed that a VBAC would be too risky) and who believe strongly that women should have the right to decide with their doctors what is the safest, healthiest way to deliver their children will find cause for celebration in this statistic.
As we all know (and some of us, alas, know better than others), undergoing and recovering from a c-section is no picnic. C-sections carry a much higher risk than vaginal deliveries of complications for both mother and child. Babies delivered by cesarean are at increased risk for developing breathing problems and injury during birth. And risks for mothers who deliver their babies via c-section include inflammation, infection, and injury in the uterus as well as at the incision site, in addition to bleeding, blood clots, and reactions to anesthesia. Plus, having a c-section once raises the risk of potentially serious complications in future pregnancies as well.
There are times, however, when the risks of a vaginal birth outweigh those of a c-section. Obviously, that tipping point may be different for different women. And those differing opinions and attitudes among women can be contentious. However, it's important for women -- both those who have had c-sections and those who have not -- not to see c-sections as personal failures. Surely we can agree that the right childbirth scenario for one woman may not be right for another -- and that we're all just trying to make the best decisions we can with the information we have.
And yet, the fact that fewer mothers and babies in the U.S. are finding it necessary, for medical reasons or otherwise, to give birth by cesarean is undoubtedly cause for celebration. Here's hoping the decline is not just a blip, but rather a trend that bodes well for the health of mothers and babies nationwide.
Are you pleased to hear that the c-section rate in the U.S. has declined?
Image via SantaRosa OLD SKOOL/Flickr
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