First-Time Cesarean Rates Dipped in 2012: CDC
But doctor says the surgical births are still too commonplace
"Vaginal delivery is the preferred method for having a baby," Maiman said. "Cesarean should only be resorted to when it's absolutely necessary."
Maiman said the cesarean rate is so high because doctors fear malpractice lawsuits.
"The pressure is on physician practices because it takes so much time and energy to stay with a patient for hours for a vaginal delivery, compared to the quickness of a cesarean," he said. "Most of the lawsuits are for the failure to do a cesarean in a timely fashion."
In a separate reporting region, the researchers found that in 28 states and New York City, the first-time cesarean rate dropped from 22.1 percent in 2009 to 21.5 percent in 2012.
Declines were reported in 16 of those 29 areas, while the remaining states' rates remained the same, according to the report.
Some areas reported dramatic declines. C-sections in Delaware, North Dakota, Oregon, New York State and New York City decreased by 5 percent to 10 percent from 2009 to 2012. In Utah, the rate fell by 15 percent.
Cesarean rates also varied depending on the stage of pregnancy. Each week from 37 weeks' gestation and beyond saw declines in C-sections, with the biggest drop at 38 weeks, when the baby is nearly ready to be born. Full term is usually considered 40 weeks.
The researchers said these findings cannot be generalized to the entire country, because the reporting states aren't a random sample of U.S. births.
Putting financial pressure on hospitals could reduce the cesarean rate further, Maiman said. "If you introduce financial incentives or disincentives to hospitals for overall cesarean rates, then they will pass that on to the physicians," he said.
Changes regarding medical malpractice laws could also make a major impact on the cesarean rate, he said.