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Birth. 2012 Jun;39(2):128-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2012.00530.x. Epub 2012 May 17.

Racial and ethnic differences in indication for primary cesarean delivery at term: experience at one U.S. Institution.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN, USA.



Black and Latina women in the United States are known to undergo cesarean delivery at a higher rate than other women. We sought to explore the role of medical indications for cesarean delivery as a potential explanation for these differences.


A retrospective cohort study was conducted of 11,034 primiparas delivering at term at the University of California, San Francisco, between 1990 and 2008. We used multivariable analyses to evaluate racial and ethnic differences in risks of, and indications for, cesarean delivery.


The overall rate of cesarean delivery in our cohort was 21.9 percent. Black and Latina women were at significantly higher odds of undergoing cesarean delivery than white women (adjusted odds ratio or AOR: 1.54; 95% CI: 1.30, 1.83, and 1.21; 95% CI: 1.03, 1.43, respectively). Black women were at significantly higher odds of undergoing cesarean delivery for nonreassuring fetal heart tracings than white women (AOR: 2.19; 95% CI: 1.55, 3.09), and black women (AOR: 1.55; 95% CI: 1.21, 1.98), Latina women (AOR: 1.48; 95% CI: 1.19, 1.85), and Asian women (AOR: 1.47; 95% CI: 1.22, 1.85) were at significantly higher odds of undergoing cesarean delivery for failure to progress. Black, Latina, and Asian women were at significantly lower odds of undergoing cesarean delivery for malpresentation than white women (AOR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.34, 0.89, 0.66; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.98, and 0.55; 95% CI: 0.40, 0.76, respectively).


Racial and ethnic differences exist in specific indications for cesarean delivery among primiparas. Clarifying the possible reasons for increased cesareans for nonreassuring fetal heart tracing in black women, in particular, may help to decrease excess cesarean deliveries in this racial and ethnic group. (BIRTH 39:2 June 2012).

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