Thursday, July 31

Birth by the Numbers

A comment on one of the childbirth discussion boards I frequent got me thinking. A woman posted that of the 9 women who have given birth in her close circle of friends, 7 of them had c-sections. That's a lot! Nearly 78% in fact, more than twice the national average.

I started making a list of my own friends who have given birth recently. My statistics came out a little differently. Of those for whom I have such information, births among my real-life friends (23 total) look like this:
  • 1 cesarean birth = 4%
  • 22 vaginal births = 96%
  • 2 vaginal births after cesarean (vbacs) = 9%
  • 13 unmedicated births = 57%
  • 7 homebirths = 30%
Just for comparison, the national averages are:
  • cesarean births1 = 31%
  • vaginal births1 = 68%
  • vaginal births after cesarean1 = 1%
  • unmedicated births2 = 10%
  • homebirths3 = 1%

Apparently, I have an unusual circle of friends.
1. HCUP Facts and Figures Statistics on Hospital-Based Care in the United States, 2005 see Exhibit 3.3
2. Obstetric Anesthesia Workforce Survey: Twenty-year Update average of hospital figures, plus 1% out-of-hospital births
3. National Vital Statistics Reports Births: Final Data for 2005 (PDF) see page 18


  1. I can't believe that Vbacs are only 1% of the national average. That's amazing. I was blessed to have a Vbac at a midwife operated birthing center. I thank God for that experience. I just didn't know it was so rare.

  2. They used to be more popular. In the late 90s, the number of VBACs was actually increasing around the country. As I recall, at it's peak, VBACs were about 8% of all births.

    A few years back, though, a couple of studies came out indicating that the risk of uterine rupture for VBAC was something like 4 times that of a vaginal birth with an unscarred uterus. Unfortunately, these studies did not differentiate among moms who labored naturally and those whose labor was chemically induced or augmented with agents (i.e., synthetic oxytocin or misoprostol) known to increase the risk of uterine hyperstimulation and rupture. Based on other findings I have read, when the use of these agents is controlled for, risk of rupture for a VBAC candidate is approximately equal to that of a first-time mom.

    If anybody is interested in actual studies, let me know and I'll look up the references for you.


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