MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time, we know the rate of C-sections for first-time mothers in Minnesota, and how widely different they are from clinic to clinic.

Minnesota Community Measurement gathered the data last year and found the overall rate in the state is 26 percent — about 7 percentage points lower than the national average for all C-sections.

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But the data also show that the rates for first-time C-sections go from 3 percent at one clinic to more than 50 percent at another.

At the Park Nicollet Clinic in Shakopee, the C-section rate for first time moms is 18 percent — low compared to many clinics around.

“We kind of pride ourselves in trying to do low-intervention births, which means we only try to get involved in a patient’s care on family birth if it’s absolutely necessary,” said Dr. Dawn Jenkins, a Park Nicollet gynecologic surgery specialist.

The Hennepin County Medical Center’s Brooklyn Center Clinic had the lowest C-section rate at 3 percent.

The Fairview Clinic in Andover had a rate of 6 percent, and Oakdale Obstetrics & Gynecology had a rate of 10 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Fairview Clinic in Princeton and the Chippewa County Montevideo Hospital had rates of over 50 percent.

Chippewa said Wednesday that their small number of deliveries might have skewed their results. Likewise, Fairview Princeton said the qualifications of its doctors make for more higher-risk pregnancies.

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“This doesn’t mean that there’s anything going wrong at some of those groups, but we do think there’s an opportunity in Minnesota to try to improve…to make sure that C-sections only get to the right patients,” said Jim Chase of Minnesota Community Measurement.

It should be noted the study didn’t look at why C-sections were being performed, or whether they were medically necessary.

Jenkins said researchers should look at what type of patient population a clinic has.

Multiple births were also not included in the Minnesota Community Measurement study. Moreover, doctors from some groups said a better measure would be to separate only healthy, full-term pregnancies where the babies aren’t breach from high-risk ones.

When looked at that way, the data show clinics with similar populations and sizes have similar results for C-section rates – between 28 and 34 percent.

“As we share this [study] with the medical groups, they’ve find ways to improve the measures themselves; but we’ll also uncover, I think, information about what are some groups doing compared to others that are getting them different results,” Chase said.

The study also looked at about a dozen other clinics and medical conditions as well.

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Heather Brown