• cesarean delivery rates;
  • cesarean trends;
  • cross-national analysis;
  • trend analysis

Abstract:  Background:  Cesarean delivery rates have been rising rapidly in many countries in the last decade. The objective of this research is to examine cesarean rates in industrialized countries and assess patterns in the trends toward increasing rates.

Methods:  We examined cesarean delivery rates per 1,000 live births from 1987 to 2007 in 22 industrialized countries. To enhance comparability, the inclusion criteria were at least 50,000 births annually and a per capita gross domestic product of at least U.S.$10,000 in 2007. Poisson regression was selected to model the cesarean delivery rates of countries across time.

Results:  We examined overall cesarean delivery rates, absolute changes in these rates, and changes in trend lines for cesarean rates for the period from 1987 to 2007. In 2007, 11 of the 21 countries reported overall cesarean rates of more than 25 percent, led by Italy (39%), Portugal (35%), the United States (32%), and Switzerland (32%). Five countries, the Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Ireland, Austria, and Hungary more than doubled their cesarean delivery rate between 1992 and 2007. Comparing changes in rates across time periods, 14 countries experienced a greater increase in rates in the period between 1998 and 2002 compared with the period between 1993 and 1997. Comparing trends from 2003–2007 to 1998–2002, eighteen countries experienced a slowing down of rate increases across these two periods.

Conclusion:  Although cesarean delivery rates continue to rise, the rate of increase appears to be slowing down in most industrialized countries. (BIRTH 38:2 June 2011)