“The Rising Rate of C-Sections Exemplifies What’s Wrong With U.S. Healthcare”

From Our Bodies, Ourselves, “The Rising Rate of C-Sections Exemplifies What’s Wrong With U.S. Healthcare”, which immediately cites “The High Cost of Caesareans” from the Boston Globe.

In order to protect ladies who may be currently pregnant and not interested in reading about births, birthing, complications, or c-sections, I am putting this whole post after the jump (I’m looking at you, Sadie – though I do want you to know that they specifically tout hospitals that incorporate midwives into OB as a model for better L&D care).

First, from the Boston Globe article, some choice quotes:

Even though caesareans are associated with higher rates of complications than vaginal births, they are becomingly increasingly common. Problems range from infections, including the more serious antibiotic-resistant ones, to blood clots, prematurity, respiratory problems for the baby, and more complications with subsequent pregnancies. There is even a small but measurably higher risk of death for the mother.

Between 2000 and 2006, while the Massachusetts caesarean rate climbed from 16th to 10th highest among all states, the state’s ranking on neonatal mortality has slipped from 4th best to a tie for 9th. Six hospitals in the state have caesarean rates greater than 40 percent for first time mothers, yet none of these hospitals is designated as a high-risk center. So much for the argument that high-risk pregnancies are the reason for these rates.

The Globe article goes on to suggest possible remedies for this problem, including:

More hospitals need to institute policies that restrict the induction of labor, unless there is a good medical reason. Unfortunately, labor is now sometimes induced solely for the convenience of the physician or the mother, and labor induction increases the likelihood of a caesarean section in many women. Almost all the recent increase in late preterm (34 to 36 weeks) births was related to planned caesareans carried out too soon, and the rise in premature and low-birth-weight babies has required more expensive hospital-based care to address the medical problems of these infants.

Obstetricians and hospitals should follow the new National Institute of Health recommendations to offer the option of vaginal birth after a caesarean for those women who want to avoid repeat surgery.

Hospitals could expand access to nurse-midwifery care. In Boston, statistics for hospitals that care for women facing the same risk of complications show that hospitals with nurse-midwifery services tend to have lower caesarean rates than those without a significant midwifery presence.

Enhancing access to midwifery care might well be the most effective approach to safely reducing the overall caesarean rate — and could lead to significant cost savings and improvement in other priority areas such as breastfeeding. It would also address the impending shortage of obstetric providers. The Legislature should pass a bill to expand access to midwifery care in Massachusetts. We must finally make midwives more central in maternity care — as do all other countries whose birth outcomes are superior to ours.

More information from the Our Bodies, Ourselves blog:

Childbirth Connection explains the myriad conditions that have led to the increase, including: low priority of enhancing women’s own abilities to give birth; side effects of common labor interventions; refusal to offer the informed choice of vaginal birth; casual attitudes about surgery and cesarean sections in particular; limited awareness of harms that are more likely with cesarean section; providers’ fears of malpractice claims and lawsuits; and incentives to practice in a manner that is efficient for providers.

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6 thoughts on ““The Rising Rate of C-Sections Exemplifies What’s Wrong With U.S. Healthcare”

  1. Thanks for looking after me. The good news is that I actually do like to read quality information that helps support our family birth decisions. Your post only helps me feel better about what we are doing. 🙂

  2. Good. I know all mom-to-bes are different. For a while I wanted to read everything and then I hit a tipping point where I couldn’t even talk about birthing.

  3. Pingback: Surprise: For-Profit Hospitals = More C-Sections « Speaker's Corner

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