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Number of Induced Labors Falling in U.S., CDC Says

Early, elective C-section rate down, too
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Since 2010, the overall rate of induced labor has slightly declined, to 23.7 percent in 2011 and 23.3 percent in 2012, according to the report published in the June NCHS Data Brief.

"We found that after increasing nearly every year since 1990, the induction rate peaked in 2010, then declined a little bit in 2011 and a little more in 2012," said lead author Michelle Osterman, a CDC health statistician. "It seems that people are waiting a little longer to let babies be born. That's mostly happening during the early term weeks, and it's a widespread change."

McCabe estimates that if the overall rate had continued to rise, about 176,000 more babies in the United States would have been born prematurely at a cost of more than $9 billion.

"We've given 176,000 more babies a better start at life," he said.

The investigators found that induction rates varied widely based on race, ethnicity and locale. For example, induction rates fell 19 percent for white mothers, but only 7 percent for Hispanics and 3 percent for black mothers.

Declines in labor induction occurred in nearly three out of four states, ranging from 5 percent in Maryland to 48 percent in Utah. Rates increased in Alaska, New York and North Carolina, and remained unchanged in 11 states.

Gaither said this variation is likely due to the quality of prenatal care that expecting mothers receive.

"In places where there's good insurance with good prenatal care, that's where you're seeing the strong decline," she said.

Gaither said she has first-hand experience, because her hospital tends to serve a largely uninsured population with less-than-adequate prenatal care.

"When they come into our institution, they're pretty much crashing and burning. Something ugly is going on that necessitates delivery," she said. "Your back is against the wall to get both of these patients in a safe place, and a lot of the time that means getting these babies delivered."

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