For years, Yelp has been telling us where to go for the best sandwiches. And now the review website is telling us where we should go to have a baby—in California, at least. Yelp’s maternity information reviews of the state’s hospitals now include sidebar statistics on the rates of cesarean births for low-risk first-time moms, along with the rates of episiotomies, breastfeeding success and vaginal birth after cesareans (VBAC).
It’s a significant step that both maternal care advocates and Yelp employees hope will help families.
In an interview with Motherly, Shannon Eis, vice president of communications at Yelp, explained why she’s personally invested in the new program: When she had her son nine years ago, she didn’t consider how hospital c-section and breastfeeding rates may affect her. Already a mom of one with a history of ideal labor, Eis wasn’t considered to be at risk for a c-section—but she ended up having one anyway.
She later learned the hospital she was in had the highest emergency c-section rate in all of all the hospitals in her city.
“It wasn’t something that I looked at: What would be the probability [of a c-section] if something went wrong with my delivery,” Eis explained in a telephone interview. “It wasn’t something that I thought corresponded to hospital practice and hospital philosophy and preference, which I now understand to often be the case. There are some hospitals who go more quickly to recommending that decision than others.”
If other parents have that data readily accessible before labor, Eis said she believes they will be more empowered.
“At the time, you’re in this panic,” she said. “If the hospital is suggesting it and you’re in the moment with some fear, you’re more inclined to go there. But, if you’re equipped with this data, you might put yourself in an environment such as a hospital that you’ve had a conversation with, where you agree with their philosophy.”
Stephanie Teleki of the California Health Care Foundation also said the new variety of Yelp reviews should be welcomed among parents, as the extra information can help moms advocate for themselves. “It allows for conversations with your OB,” Teleki told Motherly.
She stressed that while there is absolutely no shame in having a needed c-section, unnecessary abdominal surgery isn’t something anyone wants—and this work is part of a statewide effort to lower the c-section rate. She explained it’s especially important for first-time moms to know if their maternity ward does a lot c-sections, as moms who’ve had one performed are more likely to need another during subsequent deliveries.
If a California hospital’s Yelp page shows a c-section rate above 23.9 percent, they’re doing more than the recommended rate. The data may spur some women switch doctors or hospitals—but not all moms have a choice about where they deliver.
According to Teleki, even if you’re locked into a hospital because of your insurance or because you live in a rural area, getting the stats can help can help you prepare to have informed conversations on delivery day.
“If you’re going to a hospital that has a 50 percent c-section rate, it’s an opportunity to talk to your OB, talk to the nurses [or] bring family support with you,” she said, adding that if your hospital’s breastfeeding rates are low you may want to bring along a friend who can help you with those early latches.
California is currently the only state to list maternity outcomes on Yelp, but Eis said the review site hopes to add stats for more American hospitals in the future.
The data displayed on Yelp is based on numbers the hospitals themselves submit to the the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and the California Department of Public Health. While the information has previously been available to the public through calhospitalcompare.org, having it front and center on Yelp’s sidebar makes it a lot easier for moms to access, according to Teleki.
We’re all for this—we just couldn’t have predicted that the same place where we review take-out would also help moms decide where to spend one of the most important times of our lives.