On average, almost one in three first-time mothers undergo a Caesarean section. Even more surprising is the variation between the country’s 22 maternity units where some 74,000 babies a year are born.
The worrying lack of standardisation is graphically illustrated in the consumer guide to maternity services launched yesterday by the Irish Childbirth Trust.
It shows that some hospitals carry out almost double the rate of Caesarean sections compared to others. For instance, at St Luke’s in Kilkenny the figure is just over 43% for first-time mothers as against 22% at the National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street in Dublin.
In the context of a national service, such variations are unacceptable. Further research is needed to determine the cause of these discrepancies. Are they happening because different hospitals, or for that matter, individual consultants are prone to cherry-pick from a range of policies, practices and guidelines?
In the interest of mothers and babies alike far greater uniformity and a higher degree of standardisation are called for throughout the country’s maternity service.