A recent study made by the San Antonio Express-News and data journalist Christian McDonald from the University of Texas found that Doctors Hospital in Laredo had the highest rate of surgical intervention during childbirth of any hospital in Texas this last year.
31 percent of births were made by C-section. This was the highest rate in the state, and almost double the Texas overall average at 18 percent. Additionally nearly a third of all vaginal deliveries at Doctors Hospital used an episiotomy, placing it at the highest rate in the state. Together, two-thirds of women who gave birth at Doctors Hospital last year had surgical intervention.
One reason why the rate of surgical procedures at Doctors Hospital is so high could be access to prenatal care. In Webb County, 42 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 do not have any kind of health insurance, a factor that can often result in unforeseen complications that lead to the need for surgical intervention during childbirth.
Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other pre-existing conditions can complicate pregnancies, especially when they are not being monitored by a health professional. Yet, these factors do not fully explain why there such a difference in the rates among the rest of the hospitals in the state.
Other medical doctors who have studied the issue agree that in many cases, C-sections are offered to patients to manage the doctor’s busy schedule or full hospital wards. Understaffing also plays a major role in this matter, the physicians at Doctors Hospital of Laredo are some of the busiest in the state, each one overseeing around six deliveries per week, the Express-News investigation found.
One way to lighten the workload for OB-GYNs is by hiring certified nurse-midwives or laborists. However, there is only one licensed midwife practicing in Laredo, and her focus is to care for women who come from Mexico to give birth in the US.
A link to statewide hospital data of both C-sections and episiotomies can be found here.