Yelp Wants to Help You With Your Birth Plan

 (Mark Fiore/KQED)

You may check Yelp reviews before deciding where to go to dinner, or which plumber to hire. Now you can use Yelp to decide where to have a baby.

The San Francisco-based review site is now adding clinical data on C-sections, episiotomies, and breastfeeding rates to consumer reviews of California hospitals, so women can make more informed decisions about where they deliver.

“Just like they're using that kind of information to buy a car, they should be using it to think about where they're getting their health care,” says Stephanie Teleki, director of evaluation and impact at the California Health Care Foundation.

A woman’s chance of having a C-section depends, in part, on where she delivers, Teleki explains. The more C-sections a hospital does, the more likely a woman delivering there will have one.

That’s why the Foundation is partnering with Yelp to publish C-section rates for every hospital in the state - nearly 250 total.

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Yelp Adds C-Section Rates and Childbirth Data to Reviews of California Hospitals

Yelp Adds C-Section Rates and Childbirth Data to Reviews of California Hospitals

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Shannon Eis, vice president of communications at Yelp, says this would have been helpful information to have when she gave birth to her son in New York. It was her second baby, everything felt normal, when all of a sudden alarms started going off and she was rushed into an emergency C-section.

“I had never considered myself a C-section risk,” she says. "I later found out I gave birth at a hospital that has the highest emergency C-section rate in all of New York City.”

Eis says putting this data on Yelp will help women choose a hospital that is aligned with their birth plan, so they won’t have to negotiate with doctors and make tough choices while they’re in labor.

“All these decisions are washing over you so fast, and so if you haven't done the research to put yourself in the right environment, where whatever your decisions are can be honored without the tremendous pressure and fear – women are trying to do more planning around that,” she says.

The reaction from the state's hospital industry group was low-key.

“We have always supported transparency - this effort simply takes it more directly to consumers,” says Jan Emerson-Shea, from the California Hospital Association. “We'll have to see how it works.”

When the data first went public on government and foundation websites a few years ago, hospitals generally responded by trying to improve care for women, Teleki says. But she’s curious to see how hospitals will respond when those statistics are put right in front of consumers, through the online megaphone of Yelp.

“For hospitals that are doing well, that’s a good thing,” she says. “For hospitals that need to improve, I'm sure they will feel some heat and perhaps be discouraged about the release.”

California is the first state where Yelp is rolling out this data. With one in eight babies born in the US born here, Eis says it’s the perfect place to test the product before rolling it out to other states.

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“If the state of California can do this with the biggest data set in the country, the biggest birthrate in the country, any other state can do it,” she said.

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