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Int J Epidemiol. 2005 Apr;34(2):353-67. Epub 2005 Jan 19.

Prenatal risk factors for Caesarean section. Analyses of the ALSPAC cohort of 12,944 women in England.

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Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Bristol, St Michael's Hospital, Southwell Street, Bristol BS2 8EG, UK.



There has been an escalation in Caesarean section rates globally. Numerous prenatal factors have been associated with elective and emergency Caesarean section, some of which may be amenable to change.


A population-based cohort of 12,944 singleton, liveborn, term pregnancies were used to investigate risk factors for Caesarean section using multivariable logistic regression modelling. Numerous prenatal factors were investigated for their associations with the following outcomes: first, with Caesarean section (both elective and emergency) compared with vaginal delivery (spontaneous and assisted); second, for their associations with elective Caesarean section compared with attempted vaginal delivery; and finally emergency Caesarean section compared with spontaneous vaginal delivery.


11,791 women had vaginal delivery and 1153 had Caesarean section (685 emergency, 468 elective). Non-cephalic (breech) presentation (all Caesareans odds ratio (OR) 36.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 26.8-50.0; elective Caesarean OR 86.4, 95% CI 58.5-127.8; emergency Caesarean OR 9.58, 95% CI 6.06-15.1) and previous Caesarean section (all Caesareans OR 27.8, 95% CI 20.9-37.0, elective Caesarean OR 54.4, 95% CI 38.4-77.5; emergency Caesarean OR 13.0, 95% CI 7.76-21.7) were associated in all analyses with an increased risk of Caesarean section. Extremes of neonatal birthweight were associated with an increased risk of Caesarean section (all Caesareans and emergency section) compared with vaginal delivery as was increasing neonatal head circumferences. In all analyses increasing maternal age (OR 1.07 per year, 95 % CI 1.04-1.09; OR 1.04 per year, 95 % CI 1.01-1.08; OR 1.11 per year, 95% CI 1.08-1.15) was independently associated with increased odds of Caesarean section. Increasing parity was associated with a decrease in risk for all Caesareans and emergency section (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.53-0.75 and OR 0.46, 95% CI 0.33-0.63, respectively), as was the outcome of the last pregnancy being a live child. Increasing gestation was independently associated with a decreased risk of both all Caesareans and elective Caesarean (OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.80-0.93 and OR 0.52, 95% CI 0.46-0.58 respectively), whereas diabetes mellitus was associated with increased risk. These variables were not associated with emergency section. However, epidural use was associated with an increased risk of emergency Caesarean (OR 6.49, 95% CI 4.78-8.82) while being in a preferred labour position decreased the risk (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.49-0.73).


A careful exploration of risk factors may allow us to identify reasons for the increasing rates of Caesarean section and the marked variation between institutions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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