Study ranks Midstate hospitals’ C-section rates, calls many unnecessary

Are American doctors cut happy when it comes to delivering babies? Analysis recently released by Consumer Reports suggests the answer is yes.

A third of deliveries in the US are cesarean and many of them are unnecessary, according to the report, which ranked hospitals in 22 states.

Consumer Reports analyzed billing records from 1500 hospitals for low-risk deliveries. Unnecessary C-sections drive up medical costs and increase the risk for mothers and babies.

The best hospital in Pennsylvania for avoiding C-sections is Camp Hill’s Holy Spirit, according to the report. Just 11 percent of low-risk deliveries require the surgery.

“It certainly didn’t surprise me at all,” said Doctor Anne Marie Manning, an OB-GYN at Holy Spirit Hospital. “We keep our statistics, so we know that our C-section rate was low.”

 Manning, a mother of 8 herself, says C-sections are only given when medically necessary. The Holy Spirit team pushes hard for natural births. 

  “It’s a lot nicer to go home with a new baby if you haven’t had a C-section,” Manning said. “It’s easier to recover. It’s easier to take care of a newborn if you’re not also recovering from major surgery.”

Molly Means is a Holy Spirit midwife. She understands the temptation to perform a C-section but says Holy Spirit’s staff resists that temptation.

“At 3 a.m. when you’ve been here for almost 24 hours, I think it’s easier to say, ‘lets throw in the towel and do a C-section.’ We kind of hold each other accountable on that.”

  Means says patience is the key to natural births. 

“A lot of time it’s just waiting if a mom and a baby are healthy. Even if you think it’s not gonna happen, she’ll never have a vaginal delivery, she does.”

 South of Holy Spirit, but still in Cumberland County, is the Midstate’s worst hospital. According to Consumer Reports, Carlisle Regional Medical Center performs cesarean sections on 23 percent of its low-risk deliveries.

Carlisle Regional’s spokeswoman Carolyn Moore would not go on camera to respond, but did issue a statement:

The healthcare professionals at Carlisle Regional Medical Center are trained to develop personalized care plans with pregnant women to support safe births. Physicians base any decisions to perform caesarian sections on medical reasons that indicate the procedure would lead to the best outcome for both the mother and the baby. We adhere to guidance set by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to prevent adverse obstetrical events and reduce early elective deliveries. The safety of our patients at all stages of life is our top priority, and we regularly consider new measures that can be implemented to enhance the quality care we provide.

C-sections have certainly become more accepted in recent years. In 1970, only 5.5 percent of births were cesarean. Last year, it was 33 percent. Anecdotally, we’ve all heard of doctors and moms who prefer C-sections for convenience or scheduling. That’s certainly not the hospital’s fault.

“I do think there is a trend culturally that we want the quick fix,” said Means. “People think I don’t want to go through all that pain to have a vaginal delivery. But then when you talk to them about the pain that comes after a C-section versus before one and they may say maybe you’re right.”

According to the report, Clarion Hospital, at 33 percent, has the highest rate of C-sections in Pennsylvania. 

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