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C-Section Rates Are at All-Time High

U.S. Has About 1.4 Million Cesarean Births Each Year

Primary C-Sections on the Rise

Maureen Corry, who is executive director of the birth research and advocacy group Childbirth Connection, applauds the panel's action.

But she tells WebMD that lack of access to VBAC is just one of several factors driving the steady increase in C-section deliveries in the U.S.

"There has also been a big increase in the number of first-time cesarean sections over the last decade," she says.

Women who are older and those delivering more than one baby are more likely to have C-sections.

Corry says older maternal age and rising multiple birth rates may be factors in the rising rate of surgical deliveries, but they are not driving the trend.

Likewise, few women are demanding medically unnecessary surgical births, even though so-called "C-section on demand" has received much attention in the media, she says.

In a 2005 survey conducted for Childbirth Connection, just one in 1,600 women reported having a planned, first C-section for no medical reason at her own request.

Economics and litigation fears play a big part in this, she says. Surgical births are more lucrative for hospitals and doctors.

"From the doctor's point of view, a scheduled 45-minute surgery would have to be preferable to getting up in the middle of the night to attend to a woman who might labor for many hours," she says.

And while hospitals and ob-gyns are often sued when labor goes wrong, this is not the case with surgical deliveries, Northwestern Memorial Hospital ob-gyn Lauren Streicher, MD, tells WebMD.

Streicher is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.

She tells the story of a patient who delivered a severely brain damaged child following an uncomplicated pregnancy and scheduled C-section.

"She is still a patient, and she tells me people often ask her how much she sued for," Streicher says. "Her response is that she didn't sue because no one did anything wrong. But had she labored, there would have been no way to know that the delivery didn't cause the brain damage."

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