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Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: St. Luke's Sheds Light on Hospital C-Section Rates

Do you know your hospital’s statistics on safety and maternity care? Where expectant mothers and those considering expanding their families choose to deliver matters and can impact the mother’s chance of a cesarean delivery. 

Nearly one-third of American birthing moms now deliver babies via c-section. Researchers estimate that almost half of these procedures performed in the U.S. are not necessary. Across the country, hospitals are focused on reducing unnecessary cesareans in low-risk pregnancies through education, transparency and support for families and maternal care professionals. These initiatives focus on a hospital’s primary c-section or NTSV rate, which refers to how frequently the procedure is performed for low-risk births -- when a woman is giving birth at or beyond 37 weeks to a single infant who is in the vertex presentation (head-first or head-down position).

In the U.S. in 2019, 25.6% of the NTSV population (“low-risk”) had cesarean births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year at St. Luke’s Hospital, the low risk primary c-section rate was 13.58%, which is significantly lower than like-size peer group hospitals.  

St. Luke’s Hospital is committed to helping moms and babies have the safest and healthiest delivery possible. It is shedding light on the nation’s effort to reduce medically unnecessary c-sections – while making sure that patients who need them get them. 

“Our main goal is always healthy mom, healthy baby,” said Daniel Wagner, MD, board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and St. Luke’s Hospital chief of obstetrics and gynecology. “We know plans can change as labor progresses. For some women, a cesarean delivery is medically necessary and the safest approach, such as when a baby is breech, a mother is pregnant with multiples, or there is an abnormal presentation. We want to make sure cesarean births aren’t overused because it is a major surgery.” 

In 2014, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine reported the rapid increase in cesarean birth rates without clear evidence of accompanying decreases in maternal or neonatal morbidity or mortality raises significant concern that cesarean delivery is overused. 

“Avoiding medically unnecessary cesarean deliveries reduces a range of risks for both the mom and baby,” said Dr. Wagner. “For babies, this includes the risks of infection, respiratory complications, neonatal respiratory distress and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit or special care nursery. For mothers, it includes the risks of higher rates of hemorrhage, transfusions, infections and blood clots.”

The push to lower the number of cesarean began in 2010, when the U.S. Health and Human Services Department launched the Healthy People 2020 Initiative with the goal to reduce the national primary c-section rate to 24.7%. 

“At St. Luke’s, we’re proud to enable our moms and babies to have deliveries that are as low-risk as possible,” said Dr. Wagner. “Our low primary c-section rate is well below the national targets that have been set, and it is a testament to our team members’ commitment to safety for our patients.” 

Dr. Wagner encourages women to contact their healthcare provider directly to ask about their individual provider and practice rates, as well as research the primary c-section rate of the hospital where they plan to deliver.

“Where a mom chooses to give birth impacts her likelihood of having a c-section as rates can vary dramatically between hospitals,” said Dr. Wagner. “Education of this birth method is key, and it’s important to remember you have options and support. Asking for the c-section rate can help start conversations with one’s healthcare providers about the type of care they want.” 

A baby’s birth is one of life’s most special events. St. Luke’s award-winning maternity care is designed to help you create the pregnancy and birth experience you want and give your baby the best beginning. Learn more about St. Luke’s Birth Care Suites, including our complimentary maternity nurse navigator program, personalized labor and birth experience, exceptional patient satisfaction and breastfeeding resources. If you need an obstetrician/gynecologist, find one here.