National Partnership for Women & Families

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Unnecessary Interventions Common in Maternity Care, Survey Finds

Unnecessary Interventions Common in Maternity Care, Survey Finds

May 9, 2013 — Health care for pregnant women often fails to follow established guidelines, contributing to high rates of interventions like induced labor and caesarean sections, according to a survey released on Thursday by Childbirth Connection and featured in Consumer Reports.

The survey of 2,400 women who had recently given birth found that 41% of women had their labor induced, for reasons such as concerns that the fetus was too large or because the due date had passed. However, research indicates that neither of these reasons by itself typically merits an induction. Additionally, nearly 25% of women who were induced cited pressure from their health care provider to undergo the procedure.

Another troubling finding was that nearly half of women who had previously delivered via c-section wanted to deliver their next child vaginally but were either denied the possibility by their doctor (24%) or the hospital (15%), according to Consumer Reports. Guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists encourage women to attempt vaginal deliveries after c-sections, and research indicates potential dangers of multiple c-section births.

The survey highlighted several other findings in pregnancy and maternal care. It found that about half of women who intended to exclusively breastfeed experienced practices that undermined the process. Six months after giving birth, fewer than one-third of women were exclusively breastfeeding, the survey noted.

Additionally, the survey found that many women felt reluctant to ask questions because they thought their providers were rushed, they didn't want to be perceived as difficult or they disagreed with a provider's recommendations.

Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection, said, "Our survey suggests that pregnant women need to take a more active role to make sure they get the care that is best for themselves and their babies." She added that pregnant women "need access to trustworthy information about the benefits and harms of interventions, to educate themselves, and be their own advocate" (Keehn, Consumer Reports, 5/8).