We know the rate of c-sections in this country has been rising, and the scary implications that has for women and babies. But what hasn't been clear until now is just how much more frequently they're being performed in some hospitals than in others.
According to ABC, a new study found that the rate of cesarean deliveries can vary from 7 to 70 percent among hospitals. That's shocking and quite disturbing, especially because researchers say that the variance isn't due to women requesting c-sections or to the fact that high-risk populations might deliver at certain facilities, but rather because of varied styles of practice.
In other words, it sounds like your hospital's ideas about c-sections could have more impact on whether you have a c-section or not than your and your baby's need for one.
The study was especially telling because the varied rate of c-sections in low-risk patients was so large as well (from 2.4 to 36.5 percent), which rules out the other factors that are often credited for the increased rate of c-sections such as maternal obesity.
Lead author of the study, Katy Kozhimannil, said:
The variations we uncovered were striking in their magnitude, and were not explained by hospital size, geographic location or teaching status. The scale of this variation signals potential quality issues that should be quite alarming to women, clinicians, hospitals, and policymakers.
I had two c-sections. The first was an emergency one due to preeclampsia, and there's no question I had to have it. With my second, however, I was given no choice. It was just assumed that I would have another, even though my daughter was full-term. I didn't question it at the time, but I do wonder if I had lived elsewhere or selected a different doctor if I might have looked more into the possibility of having a VBAC.
While I know medicine isn't black and white, it seems like there should be more uniform guidelines as to when any doctor performs a c-section. Something more concrete than a doctor's style should be behind this decision. C-sections are necessary, yes, in some cases, but they are also a serious surgery with real risks that no woman should have unless it's absolutely necessary.
So it seems that there's a need for some reform in the medical system and more real discussion about the practice. In the meantime, women should discuss this issue with their doctor and, if possible, try to get the rates of c-sections performed for both their doctor and the hospital at which they will deliver.
Does this study surprise you?
Image via Marie in NC/Flickr