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The Hospital You Choose May Increase Risk of C-Section

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As if pregnant women don't have enough to worry about, a new study from Consumer Reports finds that a woman's chances of ending up with a C-section varies, depending on which hospital she chooses to deliver her baby.

Consumer Reports decided to investigate why so many low-risk women were ending up with C-sections and discovered that the largest risk “may simply be which hospital a mother walks into to deliver her baby." They analyzed data from 1,200 hospitals across the U.S. and saw that the C-section rates varied wildly by hospital.

If you want to see how your state measures up, Consumer Reports has created a map displaying the cesarean rates across the nation. Washington D.C. has the highest rate at 35 percent, with Florida following close behind at 32 percent. The state with the lowest cesarean rate? South Dakota, at 14 percent.

But even if you live in a state with a moderate rate of C-sections, it really just depends on the hospital you're in. For instance, the University of Chicago Medical Center has a 30 percent C-section rate while Northwestern Memorial Hospital, another large hospital only 10 miles away, is a dramatically different 17 percent. This makes complete sense if you've ever heard other moms in your community talk about "the C-section hospital."

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According to the report, a "reasonable" rate of C-sections for women with low-risk pregnancies is 24 percent, but 60 percent of hospitals across the nation were far exceeding that. Yes, 60 percent.

Obviously, there are many medical situations when a cesarean section is deemed necessary and the safest course of delivery for both mom and baby, but lately there's been a rise in what many view as unnecessary surgeries. Previous research has indicated that up to half of all women who ended up delivering via C-sections could have had a safe vaginal delivery instead.

Elliott Main, M.D., the medical director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, says, "No one is saying that C-sections are never necessary, and no woman should feel guilty or somehow bad if they end up needing one. But mothers shouldn’t be coerced, directly or indirectly, into having a cesarean either, and making C-section rates public can give women the information they need when choosing where to deliver their babies."

Check out the full report for a list of large U.S hospitals with the highest and lowest C-section rates.

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