Maternity care

When it comes to your maternity hospital, do you know what you're getting into?

The 2014 Maternity Care Report, a new report from nonprofit watchdog the Leapfrog Group, takes a look inside the safety and quality of care with regard to such issues as elective early deliveries, episiotomies, and high-risk deliveries.

The group, an employer-based coalition that advocates for better safety and transparency in hospitals, analyzed voluntarily-given data from 1,501 hospitals around the country and found that there's been a lot of progress in recent years—but there's also still plenty of room for improvement.

For one thing, many hospitals miss the mark for high-risk deliveries: Only a fourth of all hospitals meet the group's standard, which is to maintain a lower-than-average morbidity/mortality rate for very-low birth weight babies and ensure that at least 80 percent of mothers receive antenatal steroids prior to delivery. That indicates too many very low birth weight babies are born at facilities that may not be prepared for their special needs.

But there's good news, too: The study showed that the national average for early elective deliveries (before 39 weeks without medical necessity) hit its lowest rate since Leapfrog began public reporting on them in 2010—just 3.4 percent. Nearly 750 reporting hospitals achieved the Leapfrog standard. (See if your state has improved!)

More good news: According to the report, episiotomy rates are improving. Two thirds of hospitals hit the target of 12 percent or less for the once-routine procedure. Still, more than a third of birthing hospitals allow too many episiotomies, according to the group. Going forward, Leapfrog will actually reduce its target rate to a scant 5 percent to encourage further movement on the stat.

"The Maternity Care Report reveals that hospitals are making continued gains in the quality of maternity care offered," Leapfrog president and C.E.O. Leah Binder said in a statement, "yet the data also demonstrates that there is substantial room for improvement."

Want to know where your state—and your hospital—stands? Search here to find out!

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Alesandra Dubin is a new twin mom. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Twitter.

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