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ABSTRACT: Background: In Italy the proportion of births by cesarean section rose from 11.2 percent in 1980 to 27.9 percent in 1996 and 33.2 percent in 2000. The aim of this study was to identify factors, other than medical and obstetrical risk, that may influence the method of delivery and to analyze mother's preference for vaginal versus cesarean delivery among women after the birth of their first baby in university hospitals in Italy.

Methods: Primiparous women were selected from 100 consecutive deliveries in 23 university hospitals in 1999. To determine antenatal, delivery, and postnatal history, and women's preference for method of delivery, trained health personnel interviewed 1986 women.

Results: Of the 1986 women who were interviewed (response rate 95%), 1023 primiparas comprised the study sample. The cesarean section rate was 36 percent. Ninety-one percent of the women who delivered spontaneously and 73 percent of those who underwent a cesarean section would have preferred a vaginal delivery.

Conclusions: Most of the interviewed women in this study preferred, or were satisfied with, vaginal birth. (BIRTH 30:2 June 2003)