The rate of cesarean deliveries across the United States has continued to rise over the past decade, a new study has found and suggests that immediate steps were required to reverse this trend.

The study conducted by a group of researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says that about 44 percent of women who attempt vaginal delivery get induced labor and within this group, the rate of C-section is twice as high as women who have spontaneous labor.

More than one-third first-time mothers are now being delivered via the cesarean route, says lead researcher Dr. Jun Zhang whole also noting that several cesarean delivereis were done at an early stage of labor, which means that women actually did not have a chance of a normal delivery.

Between 1996 and 2007, the rate of cesarean delivery rose to more than 50 percent, according to the study which was published in the latest issue of the American journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

As part of the study, the researchers worked with the Consortium of Safe Labor to collect data on cesarean delivery across the US from more than 229,000 electronic records available through 19 hospitals. They found that more than 30 percent of all deliveries were done via cesarean section in 2007, a number that includes nearly a third of all women having their first child.

Zhang also revealed that among all the women who underwent C-section due to difficult childbirth, more than 50 percent were done before the cervix had opened less than six centimeters, denoting a very early stage in the labor process.

The study further noted that one-third of the women who had a cesarean delivery before going into labor had a uterine scar from an earlier pregnancy. This could denote one of several conditions that damage the uterus and in some cases the scar tissue may also prevent the uterus from dilating fully.

The research team pointed out that several reasons could be causing the higher number of cesarean deliveries including women delaying childbirth untill they reach middle-age, increasing obesity rates among pregnant women and the spurt in multiple births due to the use of fertility treatments.

In addition, doctors tend to suggest a second C-section if the mother had already delivered in the same fashion earlier. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists had issued guidelines last month suggesting that women who've had a C-section may be candidates for vaginal birth in future pregnancies.

"To make a significant impact on the high cesarean delivery rate in the United States, the focus should be preventing unnecessary primary cesarean deliveries from several aspects," the researchers wrote. Vaginal delivery after an earlier cesarean should be encouraged, if possible, and there needs to be an accepted standard among physicians that indicates when a cesarean is needed, they added.