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Associate professor discusses relationship between cesarean sections and for-profit hospitals

By Dr. Theresa Morris

The 2016 cesarean section rate in the U.S. was 31.9 percent, a rate which experts deem is too high, putting women’s and baby’s health and lives at risk. We know that cesarean section rates vary starkly by hospital, but little research has examined how the type of hospital may affect its cesarean rate. We did just that by focusing on how a hospital’s ownership structure may affect its cesarean section rate. Using a nationally representative sample of U.S. women who gave birth in the U.S. in 2011 or 2012, we found that, even when patient-level characteristics are taken into account, the odds of a woman’s having a cesarean were two times higher in for-profit hospitals than in not-for-profit hospitals. Knowing which hospital characteristics are associated with a greater likelihood of cesarean is helpful to women since hospital cesarean rates may be difficult to find. These findings are also informative for obstetric professionals, who can implement improvement initiatives to decrease cesarean rates and improve the overall quality of care for childbearing women in the U.S.