Making Sense of Cesarean birth Rates
Cesarean, or C-section, rates are often in the news. Although regarded as one of the important measures of a hospital's performance, one study found that only 28% of its survey respondents used quality information to choose a hospital for their birth. Another study revealed that just over half of respondents didn't think their choice of hospital had any impact on whether or not they would have a cesarean birth.
Current public health efforts focus on reducing the overall number of medically unnecessary cesarean births among a specific population-- first-time moms with potentially "low-risk" births, meaning that they have a single, full-term baby in the head-down position. The cesarean birth rate in this population is called the NTSV cesarean birth rate.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2016 show that 31.2% of all births were by cesarean and 25.7% of the NTSV population had cesarean births.
NTSV and Total Cesarean Rates, Untied States, 2016
Available CDC data show that the NTSV cesarean birth rate was as high as 28.1% in the United States, reaching this peak in 2009.
Unfortunately, only 12.4% women with a history of a previous cesarean birth end up having a vaginal birth after cesarean, or VBAC, as many hospitals and doctors offering maternity services do not permit women with a history of cesarean birth to give birth vaginally at their facility. Multiple repeat cesarean births dramatically increase the risk of dangerous long-term complications, such as placenta accreta.