Consumer Reports has analyzed data from more than 1,500 hospitals and found several where more than half the women who expect a low-risk delivery undergo a C-section. Unnecessary C-sections drive up medical costs and increase risks for mothers and babies.
Melek Speros was looking forward to a natural childbirth. But when her oldest child was born, Melek says she felt pressured by her doctor to have a C-section. Melek Speros, "He said because of the shape of my pelvis that I wouldn't be able to deliver a baby of any size - average, small, big, whatever." But when her youngest came along, Melek was able to give birth naturally. Melek Speros, "I really feel very lucky and very blessed."
Nationwide, almost one-third of babies are delivered by C-section. And Consumer Reports' analysis finds the rate is high in many hospitals even for low-risk deliveries - that is, for women who haven't had a C-section before, don't deliver prematurely, and are pregnant with a single baby who is properly positioned. "There are situations when a C-section is the safest option.
But the vast majority of women who anticipate a low-risk delivery should expect to have a natural birth." Consumer Reports says the hospital you choose can make a big difference in whether or not you have a C-section. Researchers analyzed data from over 1,500 hospitals in the 22 states where the data is available.
Dr. Orly Avitzur, "For low-risk deliveries, we found that C-section rates ranged from less than five percent to more than 50 percent." Some hospitals are working to reduce the number of C-sections they perform. "Cesarean sections are really not the easy way out. There's consequences of performing cesarean sections in that some of those patients will need repeat cesarean sections, some of those patients will have an increase in infections, readmissions to the hospital, things like that."
Melek Speros now teaches other women about how to avoid unnecessary C-sections. Consumer Reports says ask the person who will deliver your baby about the hospital's C-section rates. In general the lower the rate the better. Definitely look for rates lower than the national average, which for low-risk deliveries is close to 18 percent.
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News 8 did an on-camera interview with a doctor from both Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare and Gundersen Health System. Here's part of what each had to say:
"Our rate for primary cesarean sections in 2013 was 10%. We've been able to continue to maintain low C-Section rates which we're very proud of," said the Chair of the OB/GYN Dept. at Gundersen Health System Dr. Dana Benden.
The Chair of the OB/GYN Dept. at MCHS Franciscan Healthcare Dr. Costa Sousou said, "Our C-Section rates are very similar to the nation rates, around 28-29%. We take everything into consideration when we decide on which way to deliver and usually we promote vaginal births."
News 8 also contacted all of the other Western Wisconsin hospitals for statements. Here are the responses we’ve received so far:
Statement from Shannon Portell, media relations specialist at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire:
“Whether to have an ‘optional’ c-section (low risk, properly positioned, etc, as you mention below) versus a vaginal delivery is a discussion that a mom and her OB determine at the OB clinic prior to the baby being born, and not at the time of delivery at the hospital. As such, our hospital does not determine this.
The mom and her OB discuss that during a clinic visit prior to the mother coming the hospital to deliver her baby.
Certainly the hospital AND the OB determine if an emergency c-section is needed if the mom or baby are at high risk or in distress during delivery (low heartbeat, etc)… but that is not a low-risk delivery that you are speaking of below.”
Alyssa Van Duyse, marketing specialist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chippewa Falls agreed with Portell’s statement and added that St. Joseph’s Hospital is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System.
Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, was not available for comment.
New Beginnings Birth Center (OB) Director Rosanne Ebert at Tomah Memorial Hospital released this statement:
"While it is not known what the best cesarean section rate is, and there is broad agreement that current average cesarean section rates are too high; at Tomah Memorial Hospital, we have been consistently below state and national cesarean section rates. We continually monitor all C-sections and provide quality care to our moms on a case by case basis."
Kathy Behnke, director of public relations from Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston released this statement:
"Our staff is still looking into the report. What I can tell you is that at Mile Bluff our number one priority is our patients. All of the individuals entrusted to our care - including expectant mothers and their babies - are provided with an individualized course of treatment that is determined by the care team to provide our patients with the best overall health outcomes. I can also tell you that Mile Bluff's quality team continually monitors and reviews data to ensure that we stay focused on delivering the high-quality care that our patients have come to expect from Mile Bluff Medical Center."