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Women's Health

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Preterm Birth and C-Section Rates Up

Surgical Deliveries Continue Rapid Rise, CDC Says
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 15, 2005 - Preterm births reached an all-time high in 2004, numbering half a million for the first time in the U.S., according to federal statistics released Tuesday.

The figures also show a continued rapid rise in the use of cesarean delivery among U.S. women. C-section rates rose 6% in 2004 and have gone up 40% since 1996, worrying some experts that not enough attention is being paid to the procedure's consequences.

Joyce Martin, a researcher with the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, tells WebMD that preterm and low-weight births have been on a "slow but steady" rise for a decade.

The Role of Multiple Births

Part of the reason is an increase in multiple births, which are more likely to be premature or low-weight, she says. Martin attributes rising multiple births to increased pregnancy rates among women in their 30s and 40s, who are more likely to give birth prematurely and more likely to use fertility drugs that can lead to twins.

"Other reasons are just not clear," Martin says.

The report found a slight decrease in smoking among pregnant women, though 10.2% of women still smoked during their pregnancies in 2004.

At the same time, C-section rates reached 29.1% of all births in 2004, the highest number ever recorded in the United States. C-sections during women's first pregnancies were also up.

Patients of all ethnic groups were more likely to have C-sections, suggesting that the procedure is increasingly popular with doctors.

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