Why is the C-section rate so high?
Natthawon-Chaosakun/Shutterstock While there may be a lot of myths surrounding getting a Cesarean section, this is for sure: the surgical procedure has become 500 percent more common in the last generation or two, says Neel Shah, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. Why rates have shot up is one driver behind a new study that Dr. Shah co-authored, which is published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. The research team looked at 53 hospitals around the country and a total of more than 226,000 patients. After compiling a list of 16 different things that hospital managers pay attention to, they gave the management team a score of one to five based on how proactive they were in certain areas (meaning anticipating problems before they happen, and trying to deal with them). That sounds like a very good thing and something you want in medicine, but on the labor and delivery floor, the study found that being proactive is associated with a greater risk of surgery (C-sections), and heavy bleeding. “Part of what this study reveals is that in 2017, the biggest risk factor for having a C-section is not personal preference or medical risk, it’s what door you walk through,” says Dr. Shah. For instance, in parts of Southern California or Florida, even within the same zip code, you have vastly different risk of having a C-section depending on the hospital you deliver at. If you’re currently pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant down the line, these are five signs that the hospital you’ll deliver at is more likely to give you a C-section.
Their C-section rate is high
OndroM/Shutterstock Yes, this is obvious, but it might surprise you what’s actually considered acceptable. Given there can be such a wide range between hospitals—anywhere from 7 to 70 percent of deliveries may be by C-section—you’d think that you should avoid the upper echelon of those numbers. However, you’re looking for far lower. “For low-risk moms, there’s broad agreement that having a rate greater than 23.9 percent is higher than it needs to be,” says Dr. Shah. Sometimes you can find these numbers via Google, otherwise, the hospital will be able to give you their rates. That said, another study by Dr. Shah and his colleagues found that having that info wouldn’t sway 75 percent of women. It’s vital. Think about it: Once you near a 50 percent C-section rate, that’s basically a coin flip in the prospect of having major surgery, he points out.