Birth by caesarean section carries certain risks such as infection of the wound, blood clot, excess bleeding and endometritis, the inflammation of the inner lining of the uterus which is why C-section should be performed only when birth by vaginal delivery poses risks to the mother or baby.
Findings of an investigation conducted by the Consumer Reports, however, show that some U.S. hospitals apparently subject mothers to unnecessary surgical birth. The investigation, which involved over 1,500 hospitals in 22 states, found that too many women are giving birth via C-section in many hospitals across the country.
Of the hospitals rated based on their C-section rates for low-risk deliveries, 66 percent earned Consumer Reports' lowest or second-lowest score for their high C-section rates while only 12 percent received the top two marks.
Consumer Reports also found that the number of C-sections conducted among neighboring hospitals varies widely. Fifteen percent of births at the University Medical Center of El Paso in Texas, for example, were delivered via C-section but the rate has climbed by more than double at Sierra Medical Center located just four miles away where the rate of C-section birth is at 37 percent. The same variation occurs in Colorado hospitals where rate of C-section birth is only 8 percent at the Denver Health Medical Center while the rate is 20 percent at the nearby Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center.
Almost 55 percent of the women who were expecting low risk delivery, or those who were not giving birth prematurely, never had a C-section and carrying only one baby in proper position, underwent C-section birth at the Los Angeles Community Hospital. Another hospital in Los Angeles, the California Hospital Medical Center, however, only had 15 percent of low-risk births delivery carried out via C-section.
Figures from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of 2012, the number of cesarean deliveries in the U.S was 1,296,070 or nearly 33 percent of all deliveries, a jump from the 1996 rate of 21 percent.
The increase in C-section rate is apparently caused by doctors making intervention when the labor seems to be moving slow as some doctors still associate long labor with complications. Scheduling birth for convenience also appears to be another factor. Some hospitals also appear to have financial reasons to ignore the prevalence of C-sections.
"Hospitals keeping watch on their financial bottom lines may turn a blind eye to high C-section rates," reads Consumer Reports' release. "Medicaid and private health insurance pay about 50 percent more for C-sections than for vaginal births."