CHILDBIRTH: CAN THE U.S. IMPROVE?

May 20, 2009

Caesarean sections -- which are performed in 31 percent of births, up from 4.5 percent in 1965 -- often are considered an unnecessary risk and "an example of how the intensive and expensive U.S. brand of medicine has failed to deliver better results and may, in fact, be doing more harm than good," the Los Angeles Times reports.

C-sections can increase a woman's risk of complications, such as infection, blood clots and premature delivery.  Even without complication, c-sections typically result in longer hospital stays and increased costs, According to the Times:

  • Expenses related to c-section births account for 45 percent of the more than $79 billion in annual hospital charges that childbirth incurs in the United States annually.
  • The average uncomplicated c-section costs about $4,500, which is about twice the cost for vaginal births.
  • C-sections cost about $13,000 for privately insured patients.

According to a 2008 report by Childbirth Connection, "The financial toll of maternity care on private (insurers)/employers and Medicaid/taxpayers is especially large."  It also said, "Maternity care thus plays a considerable role in escalating health care costs, which increasingly threaten the financial stability of families, employers, and federal and state budgets." 

Some experts say that the surge in c-section popularity might be caused by coverage of celebrities having the procedure.  In addition, some physicians promote cesarean births for convenience and often fail to make women fully aware of the potential consequences.  Many experts believe that the increased rates of c-section births contribute to the United States having worse infant mortality rates and birth weights than other industrialized nations. 

Source: Lisa Girion, "Childbirth: Can the U.S. improve?" Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2009.

 

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