September 11, 2010; Source: Mercury News | Childcare advocates have long warned that Caesarian sections are overused as interventions in the birthing process and that they pose additional risks to the mother and baby.

Now, according to a California Watch analysis published in February, the California department of Public health has found that the maternal mortality rate in California has tripled in the past decade, and, although the report itself is not public, the high mortality rate is being attributed to problems associated to obesity, high blood pressure, and Diabetes—and to the fact that Caesarian sections have increased 50 percent in the same decade.

The same reporter that broke that story in February, Nathaniel Johnson of California Watch, has now taken the investigation a step further and has found that C-sections are 17 percent more prevalent at for-profit hospitals than at their nonprofit counterpoints. Why might this be the case? A 2007 analysis by the Pacific Business Group on Health—a coalition of business, education and government agencies—estimated the profits for a hospital on an uncomplicated C-section were
$2,240 while they were $1,230 for comparable vaginal births.

“Some hospitals appear to be performing more C-sections for non-medical reasons,” Johnson reports, “including an individual doctor’s level of patience and the staffing schedules in maternity wards.”

What’s more, he writes in the Mercury News, “Less than one in five maternity hospitals in the state is a for-profit institution, but among the 15 hospitals with the highest rates of C-sections, 10 are for-profit facilities. Among the 15 hospitals with the lowest rates, none are for-profit medical centers.” Additionally, there is speculation that the increase in maternal mortality rates may be nationwide. Read here to find out how Johnson developed the C-section investigation.—Ruth McCambridge