Obstetric variation, intervention, and outcomes: doing more but accomplishing less

Birth. 2012 Dec;39(4):286-90. doi: 10.1111/birt.12002. Epub 2012 Nov 5.


Obstetric interventions, particularly induction of labor and cesarean section, are done more and more commonly, although there is a wide variation between hospitals and practitioners in specific rates. This degree of variation implies imprecision and uncertainty about diagnoses and indicated management. Although the net result of this variation has been a "more is better" approach leading to increasing use of obstetric interventions, little evidence of commensurate improvements in outcome is available. A combined package of using currently available evidence, formulating best practices, instituting regular review and feedback to hospitals and practitioners about intervention rates, and a public health approach to educate women has the potential to achieve an acceptable balance between when intervention in the labor and delivery process is warranted and when it is unnecessary.

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cesarean Section / trends
  • Decision Making
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / trends
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Unnecessary Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Unnecessary Procedures / trends