By Christie Duffy
New mom Carmelie Arthur switched doctors because of her concerns about having a C-section.
“Because I didn’t want to go to the hospital where he delivered because I knew they were very C-section happy,” Arthur said.
But she had to have a C-section anyway because of her baby’s position.
“Our baby was breach,” she said.
About four out of every 10 babies in New Jersey are born by C-section, making us the second in the nation, only behind Louisiana.
Doctors here say fear of being sued is a big reason why.
“The fear of litigation — if something goes wrong — always comes out as the major excuse,” said Dr. Michael Bimonte, OBGYN chairman and vice president at Jersey City Medical Center.
Unlike other states around the country, New Jersey has no cap on how much money doctors can be sued for in a malpractice case. Doctors say tort reform may be the best medicine for New Jersey. But bills proposed in the state legislature have all failed.
In addition to health reasons, doctors say workplace culture, physician and patient preferences all have contributed to New Jersey’s high rate. But work is underway to educate patients and staff.
They say they’re trying to reduce the rate of C-sections at Jersey City Medical Center. Right now, they’re at a rate of 45 percent, above the state’s rate. They’re trying to lower that down to about 15 percent.
C-sections can be of much higher risk to mom and baby. The maternal mortality rate is two to three times higher. Complications are more common and recovery time is longer.
“The bottom line is, we want to reduce these sections, but we want to reduce them safely,” Bimonte said.
Over the past few decades, C-sections have grown exponentially in the U.S. with some patients even electing to have for convenience. The rate appears to have stabilized in New Jersey, and elective C-sections are declining.
Monmouth Medical Center has the lowest C-section rate in the state, at about 18 percent.
“Not delivering somebody electively before their time is better for the moms and the baby.” said Dr. Robert A. Graebe, OBGYN chair and program director at Monmouth Medical Center.
The state of New Jersey convened a task force of medical professionals to address this issue in 2011. It has since concluded. But not much has been done on a statewide scale to educate all doctors, hospitals and mothers on the high rate of cesareans and how to bring that number down. Although in some cases it will still the best option.