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More than One in Four Babies Now Delivered by C-Section

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: August 15, 2006

More than one-quarter of all children born in the United States—over 1 million—are delivered by cesarean section, according to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Cesarean section, or C-section as it is commonly called, is a procedure that involves making an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus to deliver her child.

AHRQ's report also found that:

  • C-section births have increased by 38 percent since 1997, when about a fifth of all American babies were delivered this way.
  • The rise was accompanied by a 60 percent decline in the rate of women giving birth vaginally after having a previous child born via C-section, and conversely by a 33 percent rise in the rate of repeat C-sections.
  • The national bill for childbirth as a whole in 2003 totaled $34 billion with hospital stays involving C-section delivery accounting for nearly half this amount—$15 billion.
  • Medicaid, the Federal-State program for the poor, was billed for 43 percent of childbirths overall and 41 percent of those involving C-section deliveries.

AHRQ, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to improve the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care in the United States. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary were drawn from the Agency's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), the nation's largest source of hospital inpatient care statistics, regardless of insurance status or type of coverage.

For more information on C-section deliveries, go to Hospitalizations Related to Childbirth, 2003.

To speak with an AHRQ data expert, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of August 2006


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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