Where you deliver your baby is a big factor in determining whether you'll have a Cesarean section. Researchers who looked at nearly 600 hospitals nationwide found that C-section rates varied widely, from a low of 7 percent of all deliveries to 70 percent.
Women with low-risk pregnancies are much less likely to need a C-section, so you would expect smaller variations in that group. But the researchers, from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia, found those numbers were even worse. Some low-risk women were 15 times more likely to undergo a C-section than others, depending on where they gave birth. And it's not just that a few hospitals were outliers. Researchers found striking variation in all sizes and types of hospitals and in all regions.
For advice on how to avoid unnecessary C-sections and other childbirth interventions, as well as tips on how to have the healthiest possible pregnancy, see our report What To Reject When You're Expecting.
The numbers matter because C-sections that are not medically necessary increase risks for both moms and babies and drive up health care costs. It's a situation in which no one wins, except perhaps hospitals and providers, who often make far more money from a surgical procedure than a routine vaginal delivery. The study points out that the average cost for a C-section in 2010 was $12,739 compared with $9,048 for a vaginal delivery.
Unfortunately, the study did not identify the hospitals with high and low C-section rates. But many states now publish C-section rates and other maternal-health data by hospital on the web. The study authors also list other websites that report on hospital performance, including CesearanRates.com, Choices in Childbirth, and the International Cesarean Awareness Network.