In the mommy world, there are few debates more emotionally charged than that of the birthing story battles. There’s natural vs. epidural, vaginal vs. Cesarean and of course, hospital vs. home. Personally, I feel like every person has their own story and every mother has the right to choose what’s best for her health and her family. Unfortunately, a new study shows that women might not be making their own choices about Cesareans at all. They seem to be heavily influenced by the hospital they attend.
A new study in the journal Health Affairs shows that the rate of Cesarean births varies widely depending on the hospital. Very, very widely. It varies widely even when accounting a for a myriad of factors!
Looking at more than 593 hospitals, whose names were not identified, researchers found rates of Cesarean births that ranged anywhere from 7% on the low end of the scale to 70% for the highest hospital. The national rate of Cesarean births in the United States in 2011 was 33% according to the CDC.
Researchers, who were stunned by the huge variance, looked for ways to explain the gap. They tried to drill down to single births carried to term with no extenuating circumstances like breech birth or previous C-section. Even then, they found that the percentages ranged from 2% to 36%.
Professor Katy Kozhimannil, who worked on the study, suggested a variety of reasons for the surprising numbers. According to the New York Times, “She suspected that the vast patchwork of health management techniques was driving the variation, including how patients are admitted, how their labor is managed and how hospitals and clinicians are paid for the work.”
The idea that the way a hospital is managed could have such a huge impact on the type of birthing experience a woman has is honestly terrifying. It’s important enough to make every pregnant woman consider asking some pointed questions, like the rate of Cesareans performed, from any hospital they are considering using when the big day arrives. It seems like women don’t need to just go over their birth plan with their doctors, they had better print some extra copies and hand those suckers out to the entire maternity wing.