After rating brunch spots, you can Yelp a maternity ward

Kristen Caminiti cuddles her son Connor while doctors stitch her up following a C-section.
Kristen Caminiti cuddles her son Connor while doctors stitch her up following a C-section.
/Courtesy of Kristen DeBoy Caminiti

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A coalition seeking to drive down the rate of unnecessary cesarean sections in California has teamed up with Yelp to give consumers the opportunity to see how often their local hospitals perform the procedure on women giving birth.

The data became available on Yelp on Wednesday, along with statistics on episiotomies, how many new mothers leave the hospital breastfeeding their babies, and more.

While it’s necessary in some cases, a C-section comes with some risk.

"C-section is major abdominal surgery. So like any surgery, it carries with it risk of infection, of hemorrhage," says Stephanie Teleki, director of evaluation and impact at the California Health Care Foundation.

The Foundation is part of a coalition that's working to bring down the rates of C-sections in California's hospitals to 23.9 percent of deliveries, a target the federal government would like all hospitals to meet by 2020. The website Cal Hospital Compare already lists the rates of the procedure, how many women go on to have vaginal births after a C-section, episiotomy rates and how many new moms leave the hospital breastfeeding.

Moving the data onto Yelp provides "a bigger megaphone to these clinical measures," says Teleki.

Yelp already lists reviews for physicians, hospitals and clinics. And it's adding new data when available to enhance the information.

"People on average read up to 10 reviews to decide where they’re going to buy a taco. So obviously, we want to make sure that that kind of thorough research is applied to bigger decisions," says Yelp spokeswoman Shannon Eis.

Patients can balance consumer reviews with clinical data to make more informed decisions, she says.

For Teleki and her colleagues, that’s the point.

"At a time when we’re asking consumers to have more skin in the game, through high-deductible health plans and things like that," she says, "having more information like this — we hope — will make those decisions and those thought processes more informed with data."