Did you know that it’s important to check how well a hospital provides maternity care before deciding where to deliver?
One critical measure of care is how often a hospital uses surgery — called a cesarean section, or C-Section –compared to typical vaginal births.
What’s the problem?
Nationally, about one in three babies is born by C-Section. Experts agree that this rate of C-Sections is too high and that up to half of C-Sections could have been avoided. This matters because surgery involves greater risks of health complications for moms and babies. While C-Sections can be appropriate for some moms, they should be used only when necessary.
What can I do?
It turns out that the hospital you choose can make a difference in the way your baby is delivered. Hospitals can vary greatly in the number of C-sections they perform for the same type of births, which shouldn’t be the case. Experts say that C-Sections should make up less than 24% of low-risk, first birth deliveries at a hospital, known as NTSV deliveries*.
Where can I check my hospital’s C-Section rates?
You can check to see whether hospitals in your area meet the NTSV C-Section rate standard of 23.9% or lower. California hospital rates can be found at CalHospitalCompare.org under the “Mother and Baby” tab.
The Leapfrog Group, a national leader in hospital quality and safety information, provides C-Section rates for out-of-state hospitals at http://www.leapfroggroup.org/compare-hospitals under the “Maternity Care” tab.
What if the hospitals in my area have C-Section rates higher than 23.9%?
Many hospitals need to improve their maternity care to achieve an appropriate NTSV C-Section rate of 23.9% or lower. If this is the case in your area, there are still steps every family can take to help make sure you receive the best care for your delivery:
- Compare NTSV C-Section rates at local hospitals to find the location with the lowest rate that meets your needs.
- If you had a C-Section during a previous pregnancy, check the rate of women who have a typical vaginal delivery after having had a C-Section (VBAC). In this case, you are looking for a high rate. Many women can safely have a vaginal birth after a C-Section and avoid the complications that can result from multiple C-Sections.
- Talk to your doctor about a birth plan that will support your choice to have a typical vaginal birth. Find out from your doctor and other caregivers what kind of plans you can make in advance to support your preference for a vaginal birth.
- Arrange the labor support you will need. Ask your doctor, other caregivers and your family for support and guidance. Learn about the options available to you and make this part of your birth plan.
For most pregnancies, a typical vaginal birth is the safest option for mom and baby. Follow the steps above and talk to your doctor about what you need and want for your delivery. And if your delivery does require a C-Section, you will have taken an active role to help ensure it is the right choice.
* NTSV is a useful category of births because a typical vaginal delivery is usually the safest approach for moms and babies. The technical term for “low-risk, first birth” deliveries is NTSV deliveries, which stands for the medical terms Nulliparous, meaning the first time a woman has ever given birth; Term, meaning a pregnancy has reached 37 weeks or longer; Singleton, meaning one baby instead of twins or more; and Vertex, meaning the baby’s head is facing down towards the birth canal.