• Why Is the National U.S. Cesarean Section Rate So High?

    More recent studies reaffirm earlier World Health Organization recommendations about optimal rates of cesarean section. The best outcomes for women and babies appear to occur with cesarean section rates of 5% to 10%. Rates above 15% seem to do more harm than good (Althabe and Belizan 2006).

    The national U.S. cesarean section rate was 4.5% and near this optimal range in 1965 when it was first measured (Taffel et al. 1987). Since then, large groups of healthy, low-risk American women who have received care that enhanced their bodies’ innate capacity for giving birth have achieved 4% to 6% cesarean section rates and good overall birth outcomes (Johnson and Daviss 2005, Stapleton et al. 2013). However, the national cesarean section rate is much higher. After steeply increasing over more than a decade, it leveled off at 32.8% in 2010 and 2011 (Hamilton et al. 2012). So, about one mother in three now gives birth by cesarean section.

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