May 30, 2024 - News

California is seeing more babies delivered by C-section

Line chart showing the annual share of babies delivered by cesarean section in California and the U.S. from 2016 to 2023. In 2016, 31.9% of U.S. babies were delivered by c-section, compared to 32.4% in 2023. In California, the share changed from 31.9% to 31.6% in the time period.
Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Nearly a third of California's babies are born through cesarean sections — a surgical procedure that's been on the rise since 2020, according to recent provisional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Why it matters: That's well above the 10-15% rate that the World Health Organization considers "ideal."

Zoom in: San Diego County hospitals reported lower-than-average C-section rates.

Caveat: Health care facilities' C-section rates vary widely depending on their capacity, clinical protocols and the populations they serve, so the WHO's "ideal" recommended rate can't be applied at the hospital level.

The big picture: The national C-section delivery rate increased slightly in 2023 to 32.4%, up from 32.1% in 2022, according to the CDC.

  • That's the highest rate since 2013, and the fourth annual increase after the rate generally declined from 2009-2019, says the CDC.

Yes, but: An increase doesn't necessarily mean the rate of unnecessary procedures has risen — there are other factors at play.

Between the lines: Repeat C-sections account for many procedures and patients are sicker overall.

Plus, health care system reimbursements for C-sections are generally higher than for vaginal births.

What we're watching: Expanding access to doula care could lower the rates of the procedure.

Go deeper: Why rates are rising — and the risks


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