Why do C-sections happen?
In many cases, C-sections are necessary to ensure the safety of the mother or baby. If the baby is in a breech position (positioned to come out feet-first rather than head-first), it’s often safer to deliver via C-section. Other reasons to perform a C-section include a placental condition like placenta previa or a placental abruption.
As many as half of the C-sections that are performed in the United States may not be necessary. In the 1960s, C-sections accounted for about 5% of births, and today that number is about 30%.
When might they be considered unnecessary?
Outside of the reasons listed above, determining whether a C-section is necessary can involve many shades of gray. Some doctors will recommend a C-section simply because a labor is taking longer than average or a baby is particularly big, but it’s often possible to overcome these circumstances during a vaginal delivery.
Some women choose to have elective C-sections so they can plan around big events or choose their baby’s birthday, but doctors strongly discourage this, and it is relatively rare. The biggest risk factor may actually be your choice of hospital.
Why is it important to look at hospital C-section rates?
Depending on the hospital you choose, you could double, triple, or quadruple your odds of having an unnecessary C-section. C-sections require longer recovery, and surgical birth poses risks to both mom and baby, so like all surgery, it’s not to be taken lightly.
If avoiding a potentially unnecessary C-section is important to you, checking out the statistics of different hospitals in your area will be a vital step in your pre-birth preparations.
What are my options?
Consider looking into hospital statistics and comparing hospitals by their rates of C-section, patient reviews, and hospital structure. This simple tool, which was created using data from The Leapfrog Group, can tell you the C-secction rates of nearby hospitals.
Make sure you have your birth plan laid out, and that you know under which circumstances you’d be comfortable having a C-section. Lastly, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns; they can talk you through your risk for a C-section delivery.