In my birth preparation classes I often discuss the concept of “entrainment“, or the phenomenon that takes place when two forces influence each other so that, over time, they move in the same way or with the same rhythm. When one force is stronger it more easily pulls the smaller force in line with itself.
One of the ways this can happen at birth is in the way that the attitudes and beliefs of all who attend may influence the decisions parents make “in the heat of the moment”, as well as influencing the final outcome. Even when parents have an express desire to birth a certain way, and truly believe in this as the “right way” for them, if the collective force of all those present at the labor (including doctors, midwives, residents, and the nurses in triage, labor and delivery, and the nursery) differs with this belief, it may well steer parents in a different direction than they planned to go before labor began.
The overall birth culture in a hospital should be at the top of the list when considering whether the forces that will be “entraining” your labor are in line with your own beliefs and attitudes about birth. One indicator of (and influence on) the birth culture and routines in any given hospital is the rate of cesarean births that take place there.
The types of labors and births that are more commonplace (e.g., unmedicated labors, induced labors, labors with epidurals, and cesarean births) can impact the way that hospital staff is inclined to view normal birth and may lead parents to want to ask more questions to find out if the hospital and the care providers there feel like a good fit.
Here is recent coverage from the Chicago Tribune that includes a link to data reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health for Illinois hospitals in 2008. The report cited in the link provides a range of information, including the total number of births and the number of cesareans for each facility in the state. It is a good starting place for finding out more about a hospital you or someone you know may be interested in for giving birth.