TAMPA (FOX 13) - For a pregnant woman, an emergency cesarean section, or C-section, is not a welcome surprise.
The University of South Florida's Dr. William Sappenfield says the percentage of first-time moms in Florida having C-sections is too high.
"We have the fourth-highest rate of cesarean in the country," Sappenfield says.
It's a statistic Pam Malone-Quarles, at St. Josephs Women's Hospital, hopes to help change.
"Our average for last year was 34 percent but we've made really good headway in the last quarter of 2017, and in our last few months we were able to get below 28 percent," she explained.
The goal is to drop the rate to the U.S. Healthy People 2020 target of less than 24 percent.
Once a mom has a C-Section, she will likely need one for every birth thereafter. Even though you might not think it's major surgery, post-partum registered nurse Teresa Toreno says it is.
"When they do have a C-section, their intestines stop, it kind of goes into shock, and so we have to slowly advance their diet as their stomach wakes up, otherwise they are going to be throwing up," Toreno explains.
St. Joseph's is a part of a 45-hospital Peri-Natal Quality Collaborative, that accounts for 59 percent of deliveries in Florida.
Sappenfield, who directs the collaborative says even though other hospitals have C-section rates as high as 60 percent, most of them aren't members.
"We have 115 hospitals that deliver in the state and some of the hospitals with the highest cesarean rates are not voluntarily participating in our initiative," says Sappenfield.
Malone-Quarles says, at St. Joseph's, the initiative is driven by their teamwork.
"We look at a number of different strategies: Our labor management, protocol, and procedures, in addition to our labor support that our staffing provides. Our goals are to allow moms adequate time and additional support to achieve a vaginal delivery," she explained.