Global C-section rate nearly doubles since 2000, study finds

The amount of caesarean sections performed globally has increased almost twofold since 2000, according to a study published Oct. 11 in The Lancet.

Researchers analyzed C-section trends using data from the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund for 169 countries between 2000 and 2015, representing 98.4 percent of the world's births.

They estimated 29.7 million C-sections occurred in 2015, accounting for 21 percent of all live births. In 2000, about 16 million C-sections (12 percent of all births) were performed. The research also highlighted significant disparities in C-section prevalence between high- and low-income countries. 

"The large increases in C-section use — mostly in richer settings for nonmedical purposes — are concerning because of the associated risks for women and children," Marleen Temmerman, MD, PhD, a gynecologist and researcher at Aga Khan University in Kenya who co-led the analysis, said in a statement cited by Reuters.

The World Health Organization on Oct. 11 released a guidance detailing nonclinical interventions designed to reduce unnecessary C-sections, which pose both short- and long-term health risks for mothers and babies. The guidance includes interventions targeted at expectant mothers, clinicians and healthcare organizations.

"These guidelines are timely and needed," said Ana Pilar Betran, MD, PhD, medical officer at the WHO's department of reproductive health and research. "When we reduce unnecessary caesarean sections, we also reduce unnecessary risks to women and their babies. We also reduce unnecessary costs for hospitals and health systems."

To view the WHO's guidance, click here.

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