Cesarean Rate Jumps to Record High - Up 53% Since 1996

More Women Facing Surgical Delivery; All Ages and Ethnic Groups Affected


Redondo Beach, CA, March 23, 2010 – The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the cesarean rate in 2007 is the highest ever reported in the U.S., with a rate of 32 percent, up 53 percent from 1996.   The most significant increase is among women under 25, up 57% since 2000.


“This report confirms the alarming trend affecting all age and ethnic groups of childbearing women,” said Desirre Andrews, President of ICAN. “With every state showing an increase of cesarean deliveries, this concerns all women across the United States today.”


In light of the NIH Consensus Panel recommendation statement , the overuse of cesarean and dramatic underuse of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) must be addressed. Currently, the VBAC rate is less than 8 percent, with evidence showing that 60%-80% or more of women having a VBAC trial of labor will be successful.   This decline is driven by the continually growing number of hospitals banning the VBAC option.    


ICAN’s VBAC Policy Survey, originally conducted in May 2005 and updated in January 2009, surveyed a total of 2878 hospitals. 1654 hospitals “allow” VBAC, 824 have an official ban, and 400 have a de facto ban in place.   Full results of the research can be seen at http://ican-online.org/vbac-ban-info.  Between formal and de facto bans, women are not able to access VBAC at over 40% of hospitals in the U.S.   


Research consistently shows VBAC is a reasonably safe choice for women with a prior cesarean, consistent with the recent NIH Consensus Panel findings.  While VBAC does carry risks associated with the possibility of uterine rupture, this event is rare. Cesarean surgery carries life-threatening short-term risks, as well as long term risks to future fertility and pregnancies. 


Women are often told it is safer, less painful and easier to have a cesarean, even though cesareans are generally shown to have greater risks and have longer recovery times than VBAC. The choice to have a non-medically indicated surgical procedure is based on a false representation of the risks and consequences of a scheduled repeat cesarean and an inflated representation of the risks and consequences of VBAC. 


“Women are subjected to a provider's lowered risk threshold for practice and do not receive complete informed consent regarding the risks of a cesarean delivery,” said Andrews. “Women and their babies are forced to take on increased medical risk during pregnancy and childbirth so that providers can feel they’ve decreased their own non-medical risks in practice.”


For women who encounter VBAC bans, ICAN has developed a guide to help them understand their rights as patients.  This resource discusses the principles of informed consent and the right of every patient to refuse an unwanted medical procedure.  The guide can be found at http://www.ican-online.org/vbac/your-right-refuse-what-do-if-your-hospital-has-banned-vbac-q.  


Women who are seeking information about how to avoid a cesarean, have a VBAC, or are recovering from a cesarean can visit www.ican-online.org for more information.  In addition to more than 130 local chapters worldwide, the group hosts an active on-line discussion group that serves as a resource for mothers.    


About Cesareans: When a cesarean is medically necessary, it can be a lifesaving technique for both mother and baby, and worth the risks involved.  Potential risks to babies from cesareans include: low birth weight, prematurity, respiratory problems, and lacerations.  Potential risks to women include: hemorrhage, infection, hysterectomy, surgical mistakes, re-hospitalization, dangerous placental abnormalities in future pregnancies, unexplained stillbirth in future pregnancies and increased percentage of maternal death. www.ican-online.org/ican-white-papers

Mission statement: The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery and promoting vaginal birth after cesarean.  There are over 130 ICAN chapters worldwide which hold educational and support meetings for people interested in cesarean prevention and recovery.

Is there financial support for VBACs?

Is ICAN doing anything to address the role that insurance companies play in this at all or the expenses associated with VBACs?  I live in an area with high c-section rates.  My first was a c-section and as we anticipate our 2nd, I went searching for a midwife in hopes of increasing my chances of a VBAC and vaginal birth.  Unfortunately my insurance only covers 5 midwives in my area - many of which are CNM and they don't support VBACs and/or they work with a hospital based practice that has high c-section rates.  As a result I had to search outside of "my network" to get a midwife that would give me a VBAC and didn't have high c-section rates.  Unfortunately for me this means I'll also have to pay for it out of pocket.  I'm thankful that my husband and I can afford it but I can't help but think of those women who can't and are forced to get subsequent c-sections because of their insurance coverage.

Hello, I’m so sorry


I'm so sorry you're having to jump through so many hoops to find the support you need and deserve. I personally was in a similar situation and had to pay out-of-pocket for a supportive care provider which added a lot of financial strain on our family. My and my baby's health was totally worth it though! :)

To get more involved to help address insurance issues, please contact our Advocacy Director and our VBAC Ban Coordinator http://www.ican-online.org/contact-us. ICAN is an all volunteer organization. The more support we receive in the forms of subscriptions and volunteer hours, the more we are able to accomplish. :)

For further discussion and support, please check out our forums: http://ican-online.org/forum/

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