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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1994 Feb;170(2):495-504.

Cesarean section delivery in the 1980s: international comparison by indication.

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National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, Hyattsville, MD 20782.



We compared trends and current levels of cesarean section delivery by indication in four countries to help us understand factors underlying national differences in obstetric delivery practice and identify pathways to lower cesarean rates.


We carried out a measurement of change in the use of cesarean delivery by indication in Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and the United States during intervals centered on 1980, 1985, and 1990. Indication for cesarean delivery was determined by a standard set of selection rules.


The rate of growth of national cesarean section rates dropped significantly between the time periods 1980 to 1985 and 1985 to 1990 in all four countries; in Sweden this led to an actual decline in the cesarean section rate. Fetal distress and previous cesarean section were important contributors to cesarean section growth in three of the countries in 1980 to 1985, but their contribution to growth dropped off sharply in 1985 to 1990. By the 1990 interval, the overall rate ranged from 24% (United States) to 11% (Sweden), and all four countries had similar cesarean section rates for breech presentation, fetal distress, and "other" indications. Cesarean section deliveries for previous cesarean section and dystocia accounted for the substantially higher U.S. cesarean section rate.


Cesarean section rates are approaching stability in the four countries and have declined in Sweden. Previous cesarean delivery and dystocia may be the major sources of future reductions in the U.S. cesarean rate. The Swedish example shows that it is possible to reduce a relatively low national cesarean section rate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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