Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Vail Health’s Family Birth Center reducing cesarean sections for low-risk deliveries

This article was printed in the Vail Daily on November 13, 2018.   

The Family Birth Center at Vail Health is a statewide leader in a quality improvement effort to reduce cesarean sections among women with low risk for complications during delivery.

While cesarean sections can be life-saving for both mothers and babies in certain situations, cesarean delivery rates have greatly increased in the United States since the 1970s without improving health outcomes.

Nearly 1-in-3 women in the U.S. who gives birth does so by cesarean section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, cesarean delivery is a major abdominal surgery, which poses its own risks for both mother and infant, and increases the cost of health care.

Women undergoing a cesarean delivery are at greater risk for severe pain after delivery, the need for possibly addictive pain medications, hemorrhage, infection, blood clots and even death. Newborns are at greater risk for respiratory problems, and cesarean delivery can interfere with bonding between mother and infant at a critical time. Women who undergo a cesarean section to deliver their first baby have a 90 percent chance of having a cesarean section in their next pregnancy, with risks to mothers increasing with each cesarean delivery they have.

“This work is incredibly rewarding. Each month, I am anxious to see our data and learn how we are performing in this arena.”Elizabeth McDaniel, Clinical manager for the Family Birth Center at Vail Health.  

'Keeping moms, babies safe'

Vail Health has been engaged in an effort to change this trend over the past three years. Through a statewide initiative called SOAR (SuppOrting vAginal birth for low-Risk mothers), the hospital's Family Birth Center has focused on reducing the number of cesarean deliveries for women who are considered low-risk for needing to deliver via cesarean section.

Current efforts, supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and led by the Colorado Perinatal Care Quality Collaborative, are focused on supporting women in labor, giving them enough time and medical support to have a safe vaginal delivery.

"The work our Family Birth Center is doing to reduce the number of cesarean sections among low-risk patients ensures that cesarean deliveries are only being performed when medically necessary," said Vail Health's President and CEO Doris Kirchner. "This is an important step in keeping moms and babies safe, and it is a model for other hospitals across Colorado."

The hospital has decreased its cesarean delivery rate for low-risk mothers from nearly 26 percent in 2017 to nearly 21 percent in 2018. With a rate change of 19 percent, these results are well below the recommendations of the Federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which has set a national goal of 23.9 percent or less.

"This work is incredibly rewarding," said Elizabeth McDaniel, the clinical manager for the Family Birth Center at Vail Health. "Each month, I am anxious to see our data and learn how we are performing in this arena. I know we are affecting our community in a positive way, reducing the cesarean rate in low-risk women and preventing unnecessary risk to our patients."

Vail Health is a nonprofit community health care system with 12 locations across Eagle and Summit counties. For more information, visit