The number of U.S. infants born early due to induced labor or C-section has declined in recent years after almost two decades of consistent increases, HealthDay News reported.
In a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data revealed that rates of induced labor have uniformly declined among expectant mothers at 35 to 38 weeks gestation since 2006.
Babies born early are 1.5 to two times more likely to die during their first year of life compared to babies born full term, according to Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes.
"There's this feeling that we've done so well with our premature babies, we've been seduced by the advances and think it's safe to induce delivery early," McCabe told HealthDay News. "We've ignored the fact that there are significant risks of illness and death in late preterm and early term babies."
Rates of induced labor more than doubled between 1990 and 2010 from 10 percent to nearly 24 percent. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, deliveries earlier than 39 weeks are not recommended without a clear medical reason. After 2010, rates of induced labor decreased slightly, to 23.3 percent in 2012.
McCabe estimates approximately 176,000 babies avoided being born prematurely by the reduction in rates of induced labor.
"We've given 176,000 more babies a better start at life," he said.