Consumer Report Warns of Varying C-Section Rates among Hospitals
Cesarean sections, or c-sections, have become increasingly common in the past forty years and can be a lifesaving procedure in high-risk births. However, a new Consumer Report warns that hospitals can have dramatically different attitudes about when to perform a c-section, which can increase the risk of health complications for mother and baby.
Varying C-Section Rates
The report rated 1,500 hospitals in 22 states on their c-section rates among low-risk pregnancies (i.e. mother’s who have not had a c-section previously, don’t deliver prematurely, and are pregnant with a single baby who is properly positioned). The ratings uncovered wildly varying c-section rates, even when comparing nearby hospitals that treated patients of similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
Rates were as high as 55% for one hospital when a facility less than 30 miles away had rates as low as 11%. More disturbing is that 66% of hospitals received Consumer Reports lowest and second-lowest ratings; only 12% of hospitals received their two highest ratings.
The report also noted that cutting the number of c-sections performed in the U.S. in half would save an estimated $5 billion in healthcare costs annually.
Why C-Section Rates Vary
Consumer Reports concluded there were several reasons behind the varying c-section rates. Some of the reasons included:
Labors were scheduled for doctor and patient convenience.
Doctors intervened when they felt labor was progressing too slowly.
Increased use of interventions such as induced labor.
Health Risks from Unnecessary C-Sections
Some of the health risks to mom and baby include:
- Longer recovery times than natural birth.
- Lingering numbness at the incision site.
- Babies are more likely to suffer breathing problems than those born naturally.
- Babies have more trouble beginning breastfeeding.
- Increased risk of death and serious complications including severe bleeding, blood clots, heart attack, kidney failure, and infection.