Assessing the Quality of Cesarean Birth Data in the Demographic and Health Surveys



Cesarean section surgery is the clinical response used to prevent several of the leading causes of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity. Given the deficient state of health-information systems in most developing countries, nationally representative surveys are currently the most widely available source of population-based cesarean birth data. The purpose of this study is to assess the quality and internal consistency of Demographic and Health Survey cesarean birth data across countries and time periods. Although these surveys are highly standardized, the formulation of the question on cesarean birth and the categories of women who are asked the question often differ across surveys. A skip pattern that restricts the cesarean question to women who delivered in a health-care facility improves the internal consistency of the data, although in some countries cesarean deliveries are still reported at low-level, presumably nonsurgical facilities. Recommendations are made for improving data analysis and the future collection of population-based cesarean birth data.