C-section rates rise, again

    More moms than ever are having cesarean surgery when they go in to deliver a baby, according to a new study published on the website HealthGrades

    Obstetrician Divya Cantor urges moms to understand the risks and benefits of both a vaginal and C-section delivery. That starts, she says, with asking questions.

    She offered some typical questions: “When can I return back to work? When can I exercise? What about lifting my baby? What about driving? How are all those things different with a c-section versus a vaginal delivery?”

    Cantor, a HealthGrades consultant and author of the new study, said the nation’s C-section rate rose to 34 percent between 2002 and 2009, up from 27 percent.

    Cantor, who has been practicing for more than 20 years, said that in the past obstetricians seemed to be more willing to suggest a vaginal birth after a first C-section. In recent years, she said, in-house hospital policies and rising malpractice insurance rates may have pushed doctors to recommend another C-section, instead of helping their patients try for a vaginal birth.

    “Vaginal birth after a cesarean section—under the right conditions—is a very safe procedure to do,” she said.

    Cantor wants physicians groups to better communicate the benefits of vaginal birth for mothers and infants. She’s also looking for more support for doctors.

    Report card rates maternity care

    The website also features a report card that evaluates maternity care at area medical centers. Researcher culled through public information and gave its five-star rating to hospitals with the fewest complications.

    Several of the area’s large medical centers did not make the cut, but Abington Memorial Hospital in Montgomery County is on the list.

    “Lots of studies show increased use of the Internet, but physicians and other health-care providers continue to be a very trusted source of information,” said Priscilla Koutsouradis, communications director for the region’s hospital association, the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council.

    “When you have to make a big decision, get information from lots of different places,” she said.

    Koutsouradis said the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council is a valuable resource for patients to check on quality and safety measures at local hospitals.

    A HealthGrades spokeswoman says the ranking information is publicly available.

    Hospitals cannot opt in or out of an analysis, but she says, the company does sell the rights to mention HealthGrades rankings in advertising and promotions.

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