Delivering by C-Section

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 1 out of every 3 women give birth by C-section in America regardless of age, race, wealth, or their level of health...and that number is up from 21% in 1996, and 5% in 1970.
Credit Stev.ie on Flickr Creative Commons

Over 30 percent of women deliver their babies by Caesarean section in the United States, a significant increase over the five percent of women undergoing the surgical procedure in 1970, and a change that, overall, has not improved the health of newborns.

While C-sections are often necessary to prevent lifelong disability or death in many newborns, they also put new mothers at greater risk for postoperative complications and add billions to the cost of childbirth. 

And, we might be doing more C-sections than are needed. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that doctors perform 10% less C-sections when their patient are also doctors. So, if C-sections are expensive, prolong the recovery of mothers, and don’t ensure a safe delivery, why the increase?

Some say a perfect storm of conditions are pushing doctors to perform more c-sections, swelling the numbers beyond what may be necessary, including multi-million-dollar lawsuits, societal expectations for risk-free birth, and high malpractice insurance rates, to name a few. This hour, we talk about the reasons behind the rise and whether we can, or should, turn it around.


  • Professor Theresa Morris is a Professor of Sociology at Trinity College and the author of Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America
  • Dr. Peter Doelger is a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Hartford Healthcare Group
  •  Professor Michelle Mello is a Professor of Law and Public Health at  Harvard School of Public Health