The number of caesarean deliveries performed has increased significantly over the years, from 20.7 percent in 1996 to 32.8 percent in 2011, and are considered the nation’s most commonly performed surgical procedure. A cesarean section can be planned prior to delivery if complications develop during pregnancy or if the mother had a previous caesarean section and is not considering a vaginal birth after cesarean. However most of the time it is not obvious until labor has started that a caesarean section will be necessary. A doctor may perform a caesarean section for a variety reasons such as labor not progressing, the baby is not getting enough oxygen, the baby is in an abnormal position, or the mother has a health concern.
Caesarean sections can be lifesaving for both mother and child but the procedure is still major surgery and as a result can pose significant health risks. Such health risks to the mother can include infection, blood clots, and additional surgery. Infants suffer the risk of respiratory and other lung problems.
A study out of the University of Minnesota shows that the rate of caesarean section deliveries varies among hospitals in the United States. The discharge data of 593 hospitals was analyzed. These hospitals had at least 100 births in 2009. The rates of caesarean section births ranged from 7.1 percent to 69.9 percent.
Researchers thought the wide ranged could be explained by the types of populations the hospitals serve. The hospitals that have a high rate of caesarean sections may serve populations with a greater number of women who are at risk of pregnancy complications. However after the data was analyzed from the low risk pregnancies the variation in caesarean section rates ranged from 2.4 percent to 36.5 percent. This suggests that some hospital may be performing caesarian sections even when they are not needed.
The higher rate of caesarean sections cannot be fully explained only by the increase in maternal factors that are associated with high risk pregnancies such as high blood pressure, obesity, and pregnancy related diabetes. It can be explained to some extent as how hospitals manage labor and delivery. To help reduce the wide variations in the rates of hospital caesarean sections hospitals need to do a better job when it comes to triaging maternal care. High risk pregnancies could be sent to hospitals while low risk pregnancies could be encouraged to have babies in birthing cents with a focus on vaginal deliveries. Women should also be given information so they can make informed decisions about childbirth.
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