Gotbaum report highlights “alarmingly high” C-section rates

Public Advocate and outraged citizen Betsy Gotbaum released a report on Wednesday (7.13.05) about the soaring Cesarean Section (CS) rate in New York City, which she called “alarmingly high”, noting that in some hospitals the number was nearly twice the rate recommended by the World Heath Organization and the CDC.

She also noted that only 1 hospital out of the 44 contacted could provide current statistics and information about their CS rate, even though all hospitals are required by law, under the Maternity Information Act (MIA), to not only provide this data but also make it publicly accessible in the form of a pamphlet, or on their website. As Gotbaum succinclty put it: “The City’s hospitals should be recommending what is best for the health of the mother and newborn, so when 43 of 44 hospitals surveyed by my office fail to provide this data, we have to ask ‘What are they trying to hide.’” It’s also sad to note that the material provided by the lone hospital that complied with the request was dated from 1998.

C-sections are major abdominal surgery, a fact which is often overlooked in our country; a woman undergoing a c-section is at risk for many of the same complications which attend any surgery, such as increased risk of infection, damage to internal organs, hemorrhage and anesthesia complications—risks which are often downplayed in the hospital, or not even discussed at all. Gotbaum also added infertility and psychological trauma to the list of potential health risks associated with c-sections, as well as an increased risk of respiratory distress and premature birth in infants. C-sections are sadly the most commonly performed surgery in America right now, but for some reason, c-section surgery is not treated with the same gravity as other surgeries. Could you imagine a man four days after obstructive bowel surgery to be up at all hours of the night and on his feet and taking care of a newborn? It’s unthinkable. I’ve never understood why c-sections are often thought of as if they’re minor surgery (they’re not!). Maybe the fact that c-sections are done under epidural or spinal anesthesia (where the patient is awake and alert during the procedure), instead of general (where the patient is completely out), makes it seem less serious? Who knows.

The CS rate in NYC right now is 26.4%. To quote Gotbaum again: “This is unacceptable. We’ve got hospitals all over the city that are delivering a third of their babies by c-section. The Department of Health has to get to the bottom of why this is the case. I also want to know why not one hospital out of 44 could provide the information they are required by law to provide.” Pithy, blunt, and to the point.

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