The rate of U.S. births by cesarean section is holding steady at 31%, says the CDC. But "we are seeing an increase in cesareans for longer gestational ages—for full term. That is very disturbing," says the head of a hospital quality watchdog group.
After more than a decade of alarming and persistent growth in cesarean sections, the procedure appears to have leveled off in the past three years, but still is used for nearly one-in-three deliveries, new federal data shows.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total U.S. cesarean delivery rate reached a high of 32.9% of all births in 2009, rising 60% from 20.7% in 1996. However, since 2009 the rate has held at 31.3%.
Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, an employer-supported hospital quality watchdog group, said in an interview that the CDC report contained "good news and bad news."
"The good news is the rate of cesarean sections for gestational age below 39 weeks has been decreasing. So we are seeing fewer and it's consistent with the trend Leapfrog has noted in the reduction of early elective deliveries. That is very positive," Binder says.