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Florida Becomes 1st State To Allow C-Sections To Be Done Outside Of Hospitals

A private equity group of physicians who lobbied for the change argue the option will be less expensive and offer moms a more comfortable birthing experience.

Delivering a baby via cesarean, or C-section, is certainly a fairly common occurrence in 2024, but it still comes with a level of risk to both baby and mother. Which is one of the reasons why the surgery has always been performed in a hospital, until now. Florida has become the first state to allow C-sections to be done outside of hospitals, a move that has some medical professionals concerned.

This spring, a law was passed in Florida that would allow physicians to deliver babies either vaginally or by planned C-section in “advanced birth centers” across the state, as long as the birth was deemed low-risk. The mothers and babies would have the ability to stay overnight at these clinics. Women’s Care Enterprises, a private-equity owned physicians’ group with locations in Florida, Kentucky, and California, lobbied the state to allow physicians to deliver babies in their advanced birth centers, Fortune reported.

Retired Women’s Care OB/GYN Stephen Snow spoke to state legislature back in 2018 and reasoned, per CNN, “We have patients who don’t want to deliver in a hospital, and that breaks our heart.” The group also argued that allowing C-sections outside of the hospital is expected to cut down costs at budget-stretched hospitals in Florida and will offer moms a more comfortable birthing experience.

Florida is allowing C-sections to be performed in clinics.ruizluquepaz/E+/Getty Images

An average of 35% of the babies born in the United States are born via C-section, and medical professionals have expressed concern about the safety of allowing these operations to happen outside of the safety of a hospital.

“A pregnant patient that is considered low-risk in one moment can suddenly need lifesaving care in the next,” Cole Greves, an Orlando perinatologist who chairs the Florida chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in an email to KFF Health News. Greves added that the new birth clinics, “even with increased regulation, cannot guarantee the level of safety patients would receive within a hospital.”

Dr. Judette Louis, department chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida, told Fox News she’s concerned about complications. “We worry about harm to patients. In the scenario where you have an unexpected hemorrhage, will you have the right resources on hand? So, many of us have had instances where we've had to call in surgeons from other parts of the hospitals to help us with an unexpected hemorrhage. What will happen in a freestanding birth center when that happens? Will they have the resources around them to save that patient? We worry that they may not.”

The law states that the advanced birthing centers are required to immediately transfer a pregnant patient to a hospital in the event they need an emergency blood transfusion, and provide that transportation.

While there is certainly cause to be concerned for a pregnant person’s safety as well as that of their baby, there is also the issue of maternity wards closing across the country to be considered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of women giving birth in Florida has dropped by 1.4% in the last year, yet the number of C-sections in the state has actually increased to 35.8%, which is one of the highest rates in the country.