Naomi Starsiak

For the last three years, a small group of women gathered together on the Parkway in Utica on Labor Day. They wave signs that read “Let Labor Start on Its Own” or “We Need VBAC” and pass out statistics about local hospitals. Let’s take a closer look at these statistics.

The one that most expecting moms will ask about is the C-Section rate; for St. Luke’s (Utica) it’s 40%; for Bassett (Cooperstown) it’s 23%; at Rome Memorial it’s 25%; for Oneida Healthcare it’s 26%; and for Crouse (Syracuse), which is the Regional Prenatal Center, the rate is 36%.

But there are other statistics that need to be known. Oneida hospital may have a lower C-Section rate but its Episiotomy rate is 40%, which is two to three times the rate of the other hospitals. An Episiotomy is a cut made by the doctor as the baby’s head is just about to come out in order to make the opening of the vagina bigger. However, this goes against the practice guidelines put out in 2006 by the American Collage of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which recommends against routine episiotomies.

Both Oneida and Rome hospitals have a high rate (66% and 44% respectively) of induction by rupture of membranes or “breaking the water”. While breaking water doesn’t carry much risk by itself it does present a high chance of infection, and induction always has a chance of failure which can lead to c-section.

Speaking of c-sections, the main number itself isn’t all you need to know; how that number splits into first time (or primary) and repeat c-sections is also important. Right now Crouse is the only one of the local hospitals which have a protocol for planned VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), which means that a woman in the Utica/Rome area who wishes to avoid repeating major surgery has to travel out of town for this support.         

This leads us back to the women on the Parkway waving signs. These women are trying to let the local medical community know that there is a demand for a protocol that is in line with new research and that gives more options here in the Mohawk Valley. The group calls themselves “Better Births for CNY” and that is the simple message that they are trying to share, that the birth options we have can be better.

Note: All data used in this article came from the New York State Department of Health website – https://profiles.health.ny.gov/ – and is for the reporting year of 2014. Please contact the hospital you are considering delivering at for newer statistics.

Naomi Starsiak is a birth and postpartum doula, a placenta encapsulator, a natural birth consultant, and the co-owner of A Peaceful Birth doula & childbirth service. You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/APeacefulBirthDoulas.

 Have a question? E-mail it to Naomi at nestarsiak@gmail.com.

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