Sutter Health Study Reveals Groundbreaking News for First-time Moms
Research Links Unnecessary Caesarean Births to Two Common Obstetric Procedures
SACRAMENTO, Calif. June 19, 2006 – A new study by the Sutter Health network of hospitals, physician organizations and other health care providers shows that two common labor and delivery practices result in higher rates of unnecessary Caesarean births among first-time mothers. The Sutter Health study was published in June in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The Sutter Health study examined a substantial 41,000 births at 20 hospitals within the not-for-profit network in Northern California over three years. It found that Caesarean birth rates skyrocketed when first-time mothers experiencing a "normal" pregnancy were either electively induced or admitted too soon into the hospital upon the start of labor. A normal pregnancy was defined as a single baby, head-first at term.
"This Sutter Health study is the first of its considerable size to clearly show how two very common hospital practices are important contributors to Caesarean birth risk," said Elliott Main, M.D., director of obstetric quality for Sutter Health and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at California Pacific Medical Center, a Sutter Health affiliate.
"First-time mothers often go straight to the hospital as soon as their contractions start," said Dr. Main. "Our study shows that women can reduce their risk of an unneeded Caesarean birth if they are admitted into the hospital only when they reach active labor, when their cervix is at least three centimeters dilated."
Steering clear of an elective induction of labor also helped avoid higher rates of Caesarean births. "Some women may like the idea of scheduling their delivery date, but inducing labor in first-time mothers should be done only when it's medically necessary and not for convenience," added Dr. Main.
The Sutter Health study also examined the impact of Caesarean birth on the health of newborns among first-time mothers experiencing a "normal" pregnancy without complications.
"People often think that higher Caesarean birth rates are associated with healthier babies. Our study finds that infants born in hospitals with higher or lower Caesarean birth rates had the same outcomes," said Dr. Main.
In the U.S., Caesarean rates are at an all-time high - accounting for 1.2 million surgeries and 29 percent of all births in 2004. The growing national trend of elective C-sections is also sparking debate among medical professionals. Some believe the procedure may reduce the risk of incontinence and other health problems for mothers. Other medical professionals caution that C-section is a major abdominal surgery that may increase the risk of complications in future pregnancies for first-time moms.
"Regardless of the debate about elective Caesarean, medical professionals and first-time mothers shouldn't sabotage the chance of a successful labor and delivery with unnecessary elective procedures," said Dr Main.
Although Caesarean section delivery rates continue to increase nationwide as result of many factors, including maternal choice, Sutter Health's Caesarean section rates have remained stable over the past five years. This is due to the network's unique approach to caring for first-time mothers.
At Sutter Health hospitals, first-time mothers account for nearly 40 percent of the more than 40,000 babies born every year. That's why the not-for-profit health system launched a special initiative known as First Pregnancy and Delivery (FPAD) in 1999. The comprehensive program, which is one of many Sutter is pursuing to meet the special needs of patients, aims to reduce the risks associated with first-time deliveries. "Successfully managing a woman’s first pregnancy can help deter health issues in later pregnancies," said Dr Main.
"It's Sutter Health's priority to help new moms have safer deliveries and better overall birth experiences. Our doctors, nurses and caregivers are committed to partnering with patients to improve outcomes and reduce risks," concluded Dr. Main.