Otago C-section rate 20.3%

Otago has recorded the country's second highest rate of Caesarean section births, a Ministry of Health report shows.

The New Zealand Maternity Clinical Indicators 2010, released last week, show Otago's Caesarean rate of 20.3% was behind only one other board, Wairarapa.

The 2010 year is the last in which figures for Otago and Southland will be separate, as part-way through that year the two boards merged.

Southland's Caesarean rate, 13.5%, was less than the national rate of 15.4%.

Dunedin Hospital women's health medical director Dr Andre Smith said he was comfortable with Otago's Caesarean rate, which while "relatively high" was acceptable.

The ministry did not look at all births, but rather a selected age group where the mothers had an uncomplicated pregnancy. Dr Smith did not think the chosen group allowed like-for-like comparisons, because of demographic factors.

Taking in all births, Dunedin's rate was about 30% this year, which was also not too high, Dr Smith said.

However, the ministry takes a different view, saying big variations between boards and hospitals need to be examined at a local level.

The birth indicators report should be used as a basis for boards to do so, it said.

The women chosen for the analysis were expected to require low levels of birthing assistance, the ministry said.

The report said intervention rates could be higher in facilities that take transfers from community birthing centres, a status shared by both Dunedin and Southland hospitals.

Nationally, Caesarean rates ranged from 11% to 24%, while births requiring no intervention ranged from 51% to 86%.

Otago's rate of births with no intervention, at 61.3%, was lower than the national average of 70.1%.

Dr Smith said the ministry report, only the second of its kind produced, was a start towards gaining a proper representation of the situation.

He said concern about Dunedin Hospital's Caesarean rate sparked a review a couple of years ago, which found the procedure was not over-used.




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