Help Spread the Word About C-Section Rates and Transparency in Maternity Care

By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 25, 2009

Did you know that a woman giving birth in New Jersey has a 73 percent greater chance of having a cesarean section than a woman in Utah? Or that two hospitals in the same city may have c-section rates that vary widely?

Complications during pregnancy or birth are not always the determining factor for undergoing a c-section. Much depends on the hospital’s existing c-section rate — but it’s not easy to obtain the data. Currently, New York and Massachusetts are the only states required to release obstetrical intervention statistics, such as c-sections.

“In the United States, we are seeing increased public reporting of outcomes and procedure rates for facilities in surgical and cardiac care, but, access to maternity care data remains almost non-existent,” says Amy Romano, a transparency expert for the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services.

CIMS is hoping to change that. The group, which represents individuals and national organizations, is calling on women’s health advocates to join its national effort to promote transparency in maternity care. From the action alert:

The safety of birthing women is in serious jeopardy according to the recently released 2007 US birth statistics. Birth by cesarean section has increased by 50 percent since 1996 and now accounts for 31.8 percent of all US births. While the procedure can be life-saving when used appropriately, it is a major surgery that carries extensive risks for both mother and baby — risks that are not present in a vaginal birth.

The 2007 rate is more than double the US Healthy People 2010 and the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 15 percent. Despite these facts, today’s birthing women have no way of knowing if their local hospitals exceed the recommended rate.

You can help by forwarding the CIMS press release, “Need for Transparency Increases as Cesarean Section Rates Rise,” to your local media outlets. And learn how CIMS is mobilizing volunteers nationally by attending the webinar “Introduction to the CIMS Transparency in Maternity Care Project” on Friday, April 3, at 1 p.m. (EST).

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