A new study examines the relationship between the frequency with which hospitals use obstetric interventions and the medical outcomes for infants born in those hospitals. Looking at rates of inducing labor and cesarean section births, the study found that there were broad differences between how often these were used at various hospitals serving similar populations. The study also found that health outcomes for newborns varied between hospitals and by year. However the study did not find a correlation between interventions and health outcomes.
Of course the purpose of inducing labor and performing c-sections is to improve the chances that the newborn will be fully healthy, but this study suggests that the current use of these practices does not provide consistent benefits. The researchers attempted to control for a wide range of variable including the underlying health risks of the patients, and whether infants that were born using these interventions would have had more negative outcomes if the interventions had not been conducted.
On the flip side, the study also indicated that an increased amount of interventions did not negatively impact health outcomes. There was not a significant increase in negative outcomes for infants who were born using interventions. Although whenever interventions are used there may be an added risk to the mother though. This is particularly true for c-sections.
The study based its research on birth certificate information from level I hospitals in order to reflect the general population rather than those who may need more extensive care for higher risk pregnancies. The results would likely be different for higher risk pregnancies.
Source: Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine "Rates of labor induction and primary cesarean delivery do not correlate with rates of adverse neonatal outcome in level I hospitals" April, 2011