And at 39 weeks, it rose 4 percent, to 34 percent of births. The rate at 40 weeks held steady at 25 percent.
A full-term pregnancy is 39 to 40 weeks. The changes occurred across the board, for all major racial and ethnic groups and for all ages of mothers.
CDC health statistician Michelle Osterman said they had hoped to figure out from the report why the overall rates had leveled off, but it didn't provide any answers. Health officials want to push the rate down to a goal of 15 percent.
Still, the shift to later C-sections is great news, said Dr. George Macones, head of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis.
"The important thing is babies born before 39 weeks have more complications than babies born at 39 weeks and beyond," Macones said.
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