Avoiding Unnecessary C-Sections

Consumer Reports looked into why so many women with low-risk pregnancies end up having C-sections

Consumer Reports’ latest study finds that the number of cesarean deliveries remains very high in the U.S., despite the desire of many women to have a nonsurgical birth.

Women who have C-sections can find that it takes longer to recover and that it’s more likely that any children that follow will also be delivered by C-section.

Consumer Reports looked into why so many women with low-risk first pregnancies end up having C-sections. Its Health Rating Center analyzed hospital data from across the country and found that the likelihood of having a C-section often comes down to the hospital where a woman delivers.

The report includes a section titled, Having a Baby in California, where Consumer Reports rates hospitals on C-sections, infections, breastfeeding and more.

The C-section rate considered reasonable from the Department of Health and Human Resources is under 24 percent for women with low-risk first pregnancies, but many hospitals exceed that. 

Even among hospitals in the same area, Consumer Reports found that rates vary widely.

For example, in Riverside, California, the Riverside Community Hospital had a C-section rate of 35 percent. Seven miles away, the Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center was able to keep its rate to 22 percent.

The highest of all was at the Hialeah Hospital near Miami, where 68 percent of women with low-risk first pregnancies had a C-section.

You can check on Consumer Reports ratings for your hospital. Of course, there are situations when having a C-section is the safest delivery option. But for women anticipating a low-risk delivery, Consumer Reports believes that they should be encouraged to give birth without having surgery.

In San Diego, Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns delivered the most babies in California in 2014 and had a C-section rate of nearly 34 percent among low-risk births. Sharp is using data from the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative to make changes to lower its rate below 23.9 percent within five years.

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