Finding the Best Labor and Delivery Hospitals
Picking a hospital to give birth in is a major decision—you’re deciding who you trust enough to help you deliver your little one into the world; who will touch your child as he’s being born; who will step in and help if something goes wrong. That said, it’s a kind of a murky decision to make because there’s no standard ranking system for how many things go right (or wrong) during childbirth at any given hospital.
The University of Rochester led a recent study (published in this month’s issue of Health Affairs) that showed obstetric complication rates varying as much as five-fold among hospitals. Obviously you want to go to the hospital that, on average, hosts the fewest complications per birth—but that information usually isn’t readily available, plus, if you live in a town that only has one or two choices to pick from—even if neither are great, they might be your only options. That’s why, as a result of this study, researchers are calling for a regulated reporting system that will allow experts in the O.B. field to look at best practices from the best hospitals and then try to replicate them in poorer performing hospitals, in hopes of better outcomes for everybody—not just those ladies lucky enough to live near the best labor and delivery hospitals!
I’d also love it if they required every hospital to publicly report their numbers of birth and maternal complications, so moms-to-be could make more educated and confident decisions about where their baby begins their life. I mean, in many cities across the U.S.—including here in New York City—every restaurant from really fancy Michelin rated places down to Taco Bell has to be checked out by inspectors and is required to post their “health grade” (which refers to cleanliness and food safety procedures) in the window. If you see an A, or sometimes even a B, you’ll go in. But if the letter C is staring back at you while you look inside, you might want to go somewhere else (ick!). Meanwhile, many moms have to choose their birth hospital based on where their friends went, or whether or not they get along with a certain doctor. Why is it that we care more about warning people about the dirty kitchen floor at the Italian place down the street than we do about warning moms about hospitals that have abnormally high rates of complications in their maternity wing? Don’t get me wrong, I totally appreciate knowing that my go-to sushi place down the street has an A rating (phew!), but I agree with the team at the University of Rochester that we need to be keeping better track of some other things, too. Our babies’ futures, and our wellbeing as women, depends on it.