The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tracked an increase in preterm births for decades, with the percentage of births delivered before 37 weeks of gestation rising 21 percent between 1990 and 2006. That increase is the main reason the nation's infant mortality rate has stubbornly refused to decline, remaining higher than most other developed nations.
Some preterm births were linked to mothers' smoking, and others to the mothers' lacking insurance. But more than 90 percent of the increase in preterm, nonmultiple births is attributable to an increase in babies being delivered by C-section at 34 to 36 weeks gestation, according to the March of Dimes.
"It comes from a general change in obstetric practice in our society," said Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes Foundation. "The doctors and the women are intervening in a much more aggressive style toward the end of pregnancy."
Fleischman and other medical experts say there are a number of reasons doctors and mothers are choosing C-section delivery - and not all of them stem from medical necessity, the health of the mother or infant.
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