C-Section rates high at most Atlanta hospitals - CBS46 News

C-Section rates high at most Atlanta hospitals

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Tamar Williams had a very specific labor plan for the 2005 birth of her first child, Jacob.

"My plan was to be natural, to have an un-medicated, natural labor and birth," she said.

But after nine hours of labor, her doctor said Williams wasn't progressing and needed an emergency C-section.

"They put you on a clock. You show up at the hospital in labor and they're like, 'we've got to get that baby out in this time frame' and if you don't get there, then it's an 'emergency,'" she said.

Instead of an epidural, Williams was put under general anesthesia.  Then, during surgery, the doctor sliced her bladder, resulting in a long and painful recovery.

"I missed him coming out, his first moments of life, I missed his first bath, I didn't get to hold him right away. It was really sad, it was something that I grieved for a really long time," Williams said.

Nationwide, almost one third of babies are delivered by C-section. In a survey of 1,500 hospitals, Consumer Reports discovered many of those are for low-risk deliveries: Women who've never had a C-section, don't deliver prematurely and are pregnant with a single baby that is properly positioned.

"For low-risk deliveries, we found that C-section rates ranged from less than 5 percent to more than 50 percent," said Dr. Orly Avitzur with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports' analysis did not include Georgia hospitals, so CBS46 went to the experts to find out how local C-section rates stack up.

"Almost all of the area hospitals have rates that are higher than the national C-section rate, and some of them have rates that are far higher," said Christine Strain, mother of four and co-leader of the International Cesarean Awareness Network of Atlanta.

Strain said rates at metro Atlanta hospitals aren't easy to come by. The most recent ones published are from 2010.

"If you talk to people they'll say things like, 'well the actual rate doesn't matter, the rate's high because of X, Y, Z, we do all of the high-risk births and that's why our rate is so high.' So they don't want it published because they think it reflects badly on them, I'm sure," Strain said.

A number of metro Atlanta hospitals provided updated C-section rates when asked.

Very few Atlanta hospitals come anywhere close to rates of 10 to 15 percent as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Dekalb Medical told us their 2013 rate was 36 percent. Wellstar Cobb and Wellstar Kennastone were just over 35 percent. Gwinnett Medical was 32 percent.

Read statement from Gwinnett Medical Center regarding C-sections.

At Northside Hospital, where more babies are delivered than at any other hospital in the country, the overall C-section rate reached 40 percent in 2013. For low-risk deliveries, the rate is now 32.7 percent. The hospital says it no longer performs C-sections or inductions before 39 weeks unless medically necessary.

Read Northside's statement here.

"Cesarean sections are really not the easy way out. There's consequences of performing Cesarean sections in that some of those patients will need repeat Cesarean sections, some of those patients will have an increase in infections, readmissions to the hospital, things like that," said Dr. Robert A. Graebe with Monmouth Medical Center.

There are certain situations where a C-section is the safest option, but a vast majority of women who anticipate a low-risk delivery should expect to deliver naturally.

After her C-section in 2005, Williams found a new doctor and went on to have two successful VBACs - or vaginal births after Cesarean.

"I think a lot of times, we just blindly trust our doctors and it's really not always the best idea," she said.

Since local C-section rates are no longer available to the public online, the best thing is to simply ask your doctor. It's your doctor's rate that matters most. Then ask the hospital for its rate, as well.  

Two Atlanta hospitals that are recognized for their low C-section rates are North Fulton Hospital, 19.5 percent, and Atlanta Medical Center, 25.5 percent. Strain said both hospitals have excellent midwifery services and AMC is the only Atlanta hospital that offers water births for VBAC moms.

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