Program Discourages C-sections, Drives Down Cost and Risk

(KCPW News) Intermountain Healthcare says the rising number of premature, elective C-sections is costing the nation billions in medical expenses and putting mothers and their babies at risk. For the past 10 years, the Intermountain Women and Newborns Clinical Program has driven down the number of premature C-sections in Utah by encouraging physicians to reconsider inducing birth before 39 weeks.  Program Director Janie Wilson says women who deliver earlier than this tend to have more complicated deliveries, which are ultimately more costly.

“Babies induced electively a week or two before they really should come into this world have more respiratory complications.” She says. “They don’t feed as well. They don’t maintain their blood sugar. They tend to get jaundice. We have technology albeit expensive and traumatic so we can do that and their outcomes, within a couple of weeks, look just like the baby who was born spontaneously.”

Wilson says some patients don’t appreciate the medical risk of inducing early labor because modern health care is so effective at treating newborns.

She says the program to reduce C-sections has been successful on several fronts.

“Everything that we’ve been doing is actually to improve outcomes in mom’s and babies.” Wilson says. “But the nice thing is, it comes with a reduction in cost of health care. If the rest of the nation could get to the cesarean section rate that we have here in Utah, we could save $3.5 billion in health care costs.”

In 2008, 21 percent of births at Intermountain were C-sections, compared to 32 percent nationally, according to its data. The healthcare provider estimates it has saved patients $270 million dollars over the past decade by reducing C-sections.