Objective: To examine women's role in the decision to perform caesarean section (CS).
Design: Cross-sectional survey. Written questionnaires were completed seven weeks after giving birth by CS.
Setting: An obstetric tertiary referral hospital (Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia), July to December 1996.
Participants: A consecutive sample of women who underwent CS over a six-month period. To be eligible, women had to be at least 18 years old, able to complete a questionnaire in English and well enough to consent to study participation.
Main outcome measures: Women's involvement in decision making, stated preference for CS, and satisfaction with obstetric care.
Results: 278 women (76.4%) returned questionnaires: 171 women (61.5%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 55.8%-67.2%) reported being involved in the decision to have a CS. Factors influencing their decision were physical duress and partner's reaction during labour (emergency CS), considerations about recovery, planning for the event and pain (elective CS), and information from the doctor (both groups). Half the women "strongly agreed" that they were satisfied with the decision to have a CS, but 40.9% only "agreed" and 4.7% were "not sure". About 20% reported they needed more information on other options, and only 28.8% "strongly agreed" that they had been given good information to prepare for the possibility of CS. 27.9% of women (95% CI, 22.5%-33.2%) "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that they had "insisted on a CS" and 21.3% (95% CI, 16.4%-26.2%) that they had told the staff they were "keen to have a CS". Given the option of a vaginal delivery, 37.8% of women (95% CI, 22.5%-55.2%) with a breech presentation, and 34% of women (95% CI, 21.2%-48.8%) who had had a previous CS, chose a CS.
Conclusions: It is of concern that over a third of women felt they had not been involved in the decision to have a CS; others were very positive about CS, but an appreciable proportion may not have received sufficient information. A broad-based strategy of providing more information to women and their partners could be one way of ensuring appropriate CS rates and should be tested in a randomised controlled trial.