With an increase in C-sections in the US in recent years - we're talking a third of new moms according to a 2013 report by the World Health Organization - doctors have been trying to get to the bottom of the heightened numbers and whether a C-section delivery is determined by a woman's health before and during pregnancy, or other outside factors. A new study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology conducted by Harvard University researchers suggests it may actually have to do with the hospital at which you choose to deliver your baby.
The study, which looked at 220,000 births in 53 different hospitals, found that your chances of having the most common surgery in the country might be totally out of your control and chalked up to your hospital's managerial policies. It turns out the percentage of cesarean births varies tremendously among hospitals throughout the country - some hospitals have a C-section rate as low as 7 percent while others report numbers as high as 70 percent, according to a consumer report which surveyed 1,300 hospitals throughout the US.
Knowing these numbers, researchers dug a bit deeper into the huge difference for the two-year-long study that looked at everything from the hospital's location to size to overcrowding (meaning too many patients and not enough beds).
The study found that it all boils down to how your hospital is run. Hospitals with a more "proactive" management style tend to have significantly more C-sections than those who weren't considered proactive. The researchers measured proactivity by interviewing various managers to get a sense of how nursing units specifically operated. They considered how hospital personnel managed patient flow and a hospital's "unit culture," or how the doctors and nurses communicated and collaborated with each other. And while the conclusion isn't totally clear yet, experts speculate the higher rates are due to competing goals among doctors in the delivery and labor units. For example if a hospital manager's goal is to make more money, he might aim to get more patients through the doors by treating them quickly, which might lead to choosing a C-section rather than a vaginal birth.
The takeaway for moms-to-be? Make sure you fully research the hospital you're giving birth at before your due date, and try to be ready for anything! If you're interested in your hospital's C-section rate, use cesareanrates.com for an up-to-date number.