In its inaugural "Best Hospitals for Maternity" list, U.S. News & World Report recognized more than 200 hospitals as high performers.
For the list, U.S. News analyzed performance data from 2019 for 571 hospitals offering maternity care in the United States. Data was collected through a voluntary survey on maternity services that was sent to all participating hospitals, as well as CMS' Care Compare.
U.S. News evaluated participating hospitals on five measures, including:
- Scheduled early deliveries
- Cesarean section rates in low-risk women
- Newborn complications
- Rate of exclusive breast milk feeding
- Option for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)
Notably, U.S. News looked only at hospital data related to uncomplicated pregnancies and did not include information on high-risk pregnancies. Using the five measures, U.S. News computed composite scores for all participating hospitals, and it recognized hospitals that scored at least 70 as high performing.
How hospitals performed
Overall, 237 hospitals were recognized as high performing in maternity care.
Across the first four performance measures, high-performing hospitals on average had:
- Scheduled early delivery rates of 1.3%
- C-section rates of 21.1%
- Newborn complication rates of 2.4%
- Exclusive breast milk feeding rates of 58.6%
Regarding the fifth measure, routine VBAC was available in 92.4% of high-performing hospitals.
The remaining hospitals received a scorecard but were not rated on their performance.
"All families deserve to be informed on how hospitals perform on key indicators of quality," said Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis for U.S. News. "Hospitals that performed well had fewer newborn complications, fewer early deliveries, and fewer C-sections compared to other hospitals across the nation."
However, U.S. News noted that the participating hospitals were not representative of all hospitals providing maternity care in the United States. The analysis included only 571 out of 2,700 hospitals offering maternity care nationwide.
In addition, because the performance measures focused primarily on uncomplicated pregnancies, the analysis could not be generalized to high-risk pregnancies. According to Harder, hospitals that typically handle high-risk pregnancies "tend to not do as well [on the list] ... because they don't focus on uncomplicated pregnancy, which is what we are really focused on with this best hospitals evaluation."
Going forward, Harder said he hoped that more hospitals will participate in the rankings so the data about their maternity care will be more transparent.
“By displaying this data publicly, we'd like to empower families to make informed decisions and to encourage transparency at the same time," Harder said.
"It boils down to [the fact that] maternity care is something that is shoppable—a patient can decide where she goes to deliver a baby because she has time to prepare, and there is more than one hospital to choose from," he added. "Maternity care is the not [the] same at every hospital." (U.S. News & World Report press release, 12/7; U.S. News & World Report methodology, accessed 12/7; Henderson, MedPage Today, 12/7; Llorente, NJ.com, 12/7; Kronzer, WTOP News, 12/7; Bean, Becker's Hospital Review, 12/7)