Background:In China the cesarean section rate increased significantly during the past four decades. This study examined the frequency and indications of cesarean birth in Shantou, a southern city in China.Methods:An analysis was conducted of the medical records of 1922 women who had cesarean deliveries at Shantou City 2nd People's Hospital between January 1990 and December 1997. The medical records of 10,490 women who gave birth during this period were examined.Results:The average rate of cesarean delivery during the 8-year period was 19.4 ± 2.3 percent (means ± standard error). From 1990 to 1997 the cesarean delivery rates ranged from 11.05 to 29.9 percent, respectively, although during this period the total annual number of deliveries decreased significantly from 1683 to 951. The rates of the most common indications per 100 women for cesarean delivery were failure to progress (23%), premature rupture of membranes (20%), fetal distress (19.4%), breech presentation (18.1%), uterine scar (14.6%), and prolonged pregnancy (11.3%).Conclusion:The cesarean delivery rate in Shantou, China, has increased steadily and significantly between 1990 and 1997, despite a decrease in the total number of births during the same period. This study showed that on an individual basis vaginal delivery was often possible and reduction of the cesarean delivery rate could be achieved safely by paying greater heed to appropriate indications.