Published: May 08, 2014 4:51 PM EDT
Updated: May 08, 2014 6:28 PM EDT

The number of cesarean deliveries remains very high in the U.S. and Consumer Reports says many of them are unnecessary. It has analyzed data from more than 1,500 hospitals in the 22 states where data is available and found several where more than half the women who expect a low-risk delivery undergo a C-section.

For low-risk deliveries, Consumer Reports found that C-section rates ranged from less than five percent to more than 50 percent.

Low-risk deliveries are defined as: women who haven’t had a C-section before, don’t deliver prematurely, and are pregnant with a single baby who is properly positioned.

There are situations when a C-section is the safest option. But the vast majority of women who anticipate a low-risk delivery should expect to have a natural birth. Unnecessary C-sections drive up medical costs and increase risks for mothers and babies.

Consumer Reports says ask the person who will deliver your baby about the hospital’s C-section rates. In general the lower the rate the better. Definitely look for rates lower than the national average, which for low-risk deliveries is close to 18 percent.

You can find Consumer Reports’ advice for avoiding unnecessary C-sections, and learn more about Southwest Florida's hospital rankings here.

According to Consumer Reports' data, only Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers scored better than average.  Lee Memorial Hospital, Physicians Regional-Pine Ridge, and NCH-Downtown Naples scored below average.

 Physicians Regional disputes Consumer Rerports' information, and says it will be contacting the company.

"Physians Regional-Pine Ridge does not have an obstetrics program," spokeswoman Taylor Hamilton told WINK News in a statement. "Our commitment to outstanding care and medical services remains our top priority, and we will reach out to Consumer Reports to ensure they have accurate information regarding our healthcare system."

Debbie Curry, spokeswoman for NCH, provided the following statement after learning of the hospital's below-average rating:

"[The] American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) guidelines are followed when managing a patient’s labor experience and we rely on the medical judgment of physicians before and during the labor process. C-Sections are performed when indicated by the present maternal condition or fetal status before or during the labor process. OB/GYN physicians meet on a regular basis to review quality, best practices, and patient outcomes. NCH and its physicians encourage patients to have input into their healthcare and delivery options and we offer a number of childbirth classes including 'Expectant Childbirth' which encourage vaginal birth and a class on 'Giving Birth Naturally.'"

For it's part, Lee Memorial Hospital said efforts are underway to lower the number of c-sections.

"Hospitals and physicians agree that natural birth is the best way to go when having a baby," spokewoman Mary Briggs said in a statement to WINK News. "Lee Memorial Health System is working on reducing cesarean births in its hospitals."

"The rate of c-sections varies at each hospital for several reasons," Briggs said. "For example, HealthPark Medical Center is the regional tertiary care center for high-risk pregnancies, so it is no surprise its c-section rate is higher than other hospitals. Also, a few years ago Cape Coral Hospital started using gentle cesarean methods which incorporates natural birthing methods into the surgery.  This innovative program has prompted many pregnant woman from outside our area to come to Cape Coral Hospital to have their baby."