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Birth. 1997 Dec;24(4):258-63.

Cesarean birth trends in Chile, 1986 to 1994.

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Centre for International Child Health, Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom.



Despite indications of high cesarean section rates in various parts of Latin America, relatively few comprehensive studies of national birth intervention trends have been conducted in that continent. Recent national statistics suggest that Chile may now have the highest reported cesarean section rate in the world. This paper examines cesarean birth trends in Chile with reference to changing patterns in health care financing.


The growth in the national cesarean birth rate is analyzed, with reference to regional patterns, differences according to insurance coverage, and recent shifts in the financing pattern of health care provision, using insurance fund data and hospital reporting systems data for both public and private sector care from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s.


Chile had a cesarean birth rate of 37.2 percent for the 301,955 births covered by either the National Health Fund or private health insurance in 1994. This was a one-third increase from the 1986 rate of 27.7 percent. The private health insurance sector revealed consistently far higher cesarean section rates than the National Health Fund sector (59% vs 28.8% in 1994); intrasectoral rates remained fairly stable over the 8-year period.


The overall increase in Chile's cesarean section rate correlates with the growth in the proportion of all births whose care was privately insured during these years (from 7.5% to 24.8%). This change may be partly explained by the doubling (to 32%) of the percentage of women with a personal obstetrician rather than a "duty" practitioner attending the birth of their baby.

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