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Serious Complication Rates of Giving Birth on Par With Heart Surgery in the U.S.

Posted on August 25, 2014

A recent study published in Health Affairs suggests that giving birth in U.S. hospitals may be a more dangerous proposition than was previously thought. According to the study, some 13 percent of women, or about 550,000, suffer serious bleeding, infections, blood clots and other serious complications each year.

That puts complication rates during childbirth at about the same rate as complications following heart surgery.

And the rates of those injuries vary from hospital to hospital. The study found that 23 percent of women who delivered vaginally experienced complications in the lowest performing hospitals, while the rate was only 10.4 percent in the highest-performing ones.

But, just how do you know which hospitals have high complication rates and is there a way to avoid hospitals where injuries to mothers and infants are high?

According to Consumer Reports, it is not an easy to find how hospitals rate in obstetrical care. Most states, for example, carry no requirements that a hospital report infection rates for C-sections.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Anesthesiologists require that hospitals with 1,100 or more births per year report rates of C-sections and hospital-acquired bloodstream infections of newborns. The Joint Commission is responsible for accrediting and certifying U.S. hospitals. It is currently working on the creation of a national registry to establish performance benchmarks for obstetrical anesthesiology and obstetrics.

So, what can you do in the meantime to find a safe hospital? Consumer Reports suggests the following:

Look for hospital ratings. Consumer Reports has C-section rates for about 1,500 hospitals in 22 states, plus it has general safety information on some 4,500 hospitals nationwide. The Leapfrog Group also has a comprehensive list of hospital ratings.

Take care when choosing your provider. Ask your primary doctor for recommendations of obstetricians or midwives. Then interview those caregivers before choosing. If a provider is reticent to answer questions about their rates of C-section, early delivery and when he or she induces labor, it is time to find someone who is more forthcoming.

Ask for complication rates. Ask your provider and the hospital for birth complication rates — and then request data that backs up their claims. If a hospital can’t or won’t comply, seek another location that will.

If you or your infant has suffered an injury due to an avoidable complication suffered at a hospital, please contact the childbirth injury attorneys at Farah & Farah in Gainesville.  You may be entitled to compensation for damages. Call us at (800) 533-3555 or contact us online to talk about your legal rights.