Is Your Hospital Putting You at Risk for a C-Section?

A new study published in Health Affairs, a health journal, reveals that the percentage of Cesarean sections performed per birth varies drastically from hospital to hospital across the United States. Researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver examined data derived from over 800,000 births at 593 American hospitals and were quite surprised at their findings.

The incidence of c-sections varied significantly by hospital, ranging from 7% of all births in the hospital with the lowest rates in the country to 70% percent of all births in the hospital with the highest rates in the country. This is a vast disparity that may influence how your child is delivered. The study did not reveal hospital names.

C-sections rates are up exponentially across the nation, and particularly in recent years—33% of all babies born in US hospitals in 2011 were delivered via c-section, compared to 21% in 1996, according to the CDC. In fact, the c-section is the most common operation performed in the country, but the large discrepancy in the incidence of this procedure among hospitals is likely explained by a gap in the quality of care between hospitals and regions.

A researcher stated, “I did not expect to see variations of this magnitude. It begs a closer look at how we structure and finance childbirth in the United States.”

The probability of a c-section is very likely linked to the following factors:

  • how the hospital is run
  • the sensitivity of a doctor
  • how a woman's labor is managed
  • the hospital employees payment structure
  • how patients are admitted

If you're pregnant and choosing a birthing center, keep these factors in mind to have a better chance to more closely execute your birth plan.

The study suggested that reducing variety in c-section incidences could be achieved by "better coordinating maternity care, collecting and measuring more data, tying Medicaid payment to quality improvement, and enhancing patient-centered decision making through public reporting."