Short-Term Morbidity Associated with Cesarean Delivery


  • Edith M. Hillan PhD, MSc, DipLSc, RGN, RSCN, RM

    Corresponding author
    1. Edith Hillan is senior lecturer at the Department of Nursing Studies at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland.
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  • This work was supported by a Scottish Office Home and Health Department Nursing Research Fellowship.

Address correspondence to Dr. Edith Hillan, Department of Nursing Studies, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ. Scotland, UK.


This study describes the short-term morbidity associated with cesarean delivery and women's knowledge of the reasons it was performed. It was conducted in a university teaching hospital that delivers approximately 4000 women per year. During 1986, 619 women (16%) were delivered by cesarean, 588 of whom were sent a questionnaire three months after delivery. The response rate was 76 percent. General questions were asked about the women's recovery and health state after the birth, and whether they had experienced more specific types of morbidity, including infection, backache, and depression, and the reasons for the cesarean delivery. Women's answers were then compared with the obstetric case record. In their comprehension of why the cesarean was necessary, 87 percent of women were right or partially right, 35 percent believed they had still not fully recovered, and 28 percent felt less healthy than before the pregnancy. Women experienced a wide variety of postnatal morbidity, most commonly backache (55%), constipation (49%), and depression (38%). The study showed that considerable maternal morbidity is associated with cesarean delivery, and it can persist long after the woman is discharged from hospital. Much more information is necessary about the health of women after delivery, and research is urgently required to determine the comparative rates of morbidity associated with different delivery methods.