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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly 1.4 million babies born in the United States in 2007 were delivered by Caesarean section, a record U.S. high and a larger number than in most other industrialized nations, health officials said on Tuesday.
In 2007, nearly one-third of all births were Caesarean deliveries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report, noting large rises in all racial, ethnic and age groups over 10 years.
The benefits and risks of Caesarean delivery, which involves major abdominal surgery, have been the subject of intense debate for more than a quarter of a century.
In addition to health and safety risks for mothers and infants, hospital charges for a Caesarean delivery are almost double those for a vaginal delivery, according to the CDC.
Caesarean delivery was the most frequently performed surgery in the United States in 2006, it said.
After a drop in the early 1990s, the Caesarean rate rose from 21 percent of all births in 1996 to an all-time high of 32 percent in 2007, the report said.
The number of Caesarean births rose 71 percent from 797,119 in 1996 to 1.367 million in 2007, it said. There was a big jump among women under the age of 25 beginning around 2000.
Some of the increase may be related to a rise in multiple births and other non-medical factors such as older mothers, the mother's choice and the doctor's practice, the CDC said.
Caesarean births rose in all states and the District of Columbia but the rates varied widely. Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, Rhode Island and Washington had increases of more than 70 percent.
Editing by John O'Callaghan