Today, the CDC released preliminary birth data for 2007. While some statistics were encouraging, namely that preterm birth, the leading cause of infant mortality in the US, decreased for the first time in over 20 years, other statistics were not so encouraging:
For the 11th straight year, c-section rates continued to climb, from 31.1% in 2006 to 31.8% in 2007.
Pre-terms births, defined as infants delivered at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy, fell 1% in 2007 to 12.7% of all births. Per the March of Dimes, the improvement is largely due to a reduction in deliveries taking place before 39 weeks.
I've posted in the past on the mounting research outlining the dangers of induction and c-section before 39 weeks and the large number of pre-term births that could be prevented by doing so, which is a position also supported by the March of Dimes.
The CDC stats confirm that the efforts of the March of Dimes and other such advocacy efforts are helping to delay c-sections and inductions until closer to 40 weeks, but have as yet been unsuccessful in reducing the number of c-sections needlessly performed each year.
I find it so ironic that the key to improving birth outcomes for babies is forcing doctors to adhere more strictly to evidence-based guidelines. The incidence of pre-terms births was reduced, not by some great technical advance in medicine, but by making doctors stop performing potentially harmful procedures too soon.
In short, when doctors follow the evidence, birth outcomes improve.
The real conundrum lies in why is it so difficult to make modern maternity care practices follow what the evidence proves is best for mothers and babies...