• Caesarean;
  • elective caesarean;
  • mode of delivery;
  • patient preferences

Objective  Caesarean section rates in Chile are reported to be as high as 60% in some populations. The purpose of this study was to determine pregnant Chilean women’s preferences towards mode of delivery.

Design  Interviewer-administered cross-sectional survey.

Setting  Prenatal clinics in Santiago, Chile.

Population  Pregnant women in Santiago, Chile.

Methods  Of 180 women completing the questionnaire, 90 were interviewed at a private clinic (caesarean delivery rate 60%) and 90 were interviewed at a public clinic (cesarean delivery rate 22%). Data collected included demographics, preferred mode of delivery, and women’s attitudes towards vaginal and caesarean deliveries.

Main outcome measures  Mode of delivery preferences, perceptions of mode of delivery measured on a 1–7 Likert scale.

Results  The majority of women (77.8%) preferred vaginal delivery, 9.4% preferred caesarean section, and 12.8% had no preference. There was no statistical difference in preference between the public clinic (11% preferred caesarean) and the private clinic (8% preferred caesarean, P= 0.74). Overall, women preferring caesarean birth were slightly older than other groups (31.6 years, versus 28.4 years for women who preferred vaginal and 27.3 years for women who had no preference, P= 0.05), but there were otherwise no differences in parity, income, or education. On a scale of 1–7, women preferring caesarean birth rated vaginal birth as more painful, while women preferring vaginal birth rated it as less painful (5.8 versus 3.7, P= 0.003). Whether vaginal or caesarean, each group felt that their preferred mode of delivery was safer for their baby (P < 0.001).

Conclusions  Chilean women do not prefer caesarean section to vaginal delivery, even in a practice setting where caesarean delivery is more prevalent. Thus, women’s preferences is unlikely to be the most significant factor driving the high caesarean rates in Chile.