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Since 1996, C-section rates have increased by 46 percent. Recent statistics from the New Consumer Report investigation reveal even more troubling news as hospitals all over the country have drastically different C-sections rates. Are C-sections becoming the future of childbirth?
As C-section rates vary greatly from hospital to hospital, concerns regarding the vast differences in terms of how often different hospitals perform C-section rates are growing. Hidden numbers were brought to light when a new Consumer Report revealed that C-section percentage rates at hospitals may be a good indicator if a medical staff is doing all they can to ensure natural births.
Looking at births that took place during a two-year period between 2009 and 2012, the Consumer Reports analyzed over 1500 hundred hospitals in 22 states. The data was scored according to the rate of low-risk pregnancies (the mother has never had a C-section, would not deliver prematurely, and is only carrying one baby in the correct position) delivered through a C-section.
Statistics revealed that nearly 55 percent of pregnant women expecting a low-risk delivery at Los Angeles Community Hospital had a C-section. This percentage is strikingly high considering that the rate of C-sections for low-risk deliveries at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles was at a mere 15 percent. That means that two hospitals in the same city had a 40 percent deferential when it came to the amount of C-sections performed on low-risk births.
The lowest C-section rate was at Denver Health Medical Center with an eight percent rate. The Consumer Reports also revealed that 66 percent of the hospitals earned the low or second-lowest score for their high C-section rates. Only 12 percent earned the top two scores. Hidden numbers are revealing that where one delivers their baby may be more of an indication of the type of delivery method they can expect than the actual situation at hand. Despite many who believe that C-sections are only for emergencies, they may be the future of childbirth.
Since 1970, the number of C-section rates has boosted by 500 percent. What is causing such a skyrocket and how is it a reflection of our society? The CDC estimates that one in three babies in the U.S. are now delivered through surgery even though C-sections can carry higher risks of complications and have longer recovery times.
Ricki Lake’s documentary, The Business of Being Born may present some answers to these puzzling numbers. One of the main arguments made in the documentary about why C-section rates are increasing is that a C-section is more doctor friendly.
When a C-section is scheduled, induced, and then performed, instead of having a woman in labor for an average of 12 hours, seven days a week, the doctor only has to be there for 20 minutes. Interestingly enough, tracking peaks in the times C-sections are most commonly performed reveals that 4 pm and 10 pm at night have the highest amount of procedures, coincidently when the day is dimming and when time for sleep is beginning.
Some doctors interviewed in the documentary believed that the reason for the influx in C-sections was because doctors were fearful of possible litigation. Dr. Eden Fromberg an OB/GYN even spoke about how a doctor that trained her would say, “they can never fault you if you just section them, just section them!”
Another interesting reason that people may be getting more C-sections is because of their ability to decide the date and time they want to have their child. This creates more convenience for women, their partners, and their families. With surgery becoming so common, the thought of an elective C-section does not seem very outlandish.
Are there any alternative options than hospital delivery for women? Research on home births shows that in a supportive environment with professionals such as midwives, the outcome of home birth is consistently very good, even better in some cases than in hospitals. Of course, there has to be preparation, a back up plan in case of an emergency, and an extensive knowledge of the patient’s medical background before going through with a home delivery. Contrary to what some believe, home birth can be very safe. In fact, one third of the Netherlands’s births are planned home births and yet there are fewer infant mortalities and mortalities of mothers during birth than in America.
Another option for those who want to have a natural birth, but would like to do so in the hospital is to get a “doula,” or a person who is trained and experienced in childbirth. The doula acts as support for the mother who may be in distress and provides them with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during and just after childbirth. This can be helpful in situations where women may feel pressured to take drugs they do not really want to take, to induce labor, or have a C-section, and any other interventions that are contrary to a mother’s birth plan.
Although C-section may appear to be the direction the future of childbirth is heading, it is important to note that there is an appropriate time for intervention and there is an inappropriate time for it. Women are naturally created to give birth without intervention or suffering. A birth story is a beautiful experience and every woman decides to have hers differently. However, having all the information prior to making one’s decision is of utmost importance in creating a safe, healthy, and happy environment for both baby and mom.
Written by: Amiya Moretta