Caesarean section rate for maternal indication in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Lancet. 2001 Oct 20;358(9290):1328-33. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(01)06414-5.


Introduction: Rates of caesarean sections in more-developed countries have been rising since 1970, and vary greatly between less-developed countries. Present estimates, based on data from more-developed countries need to be validated with data from less-developed countries. We estimated the need for caesarean section for maternal indication in a population of pregnant women in west Africa (MOMA survey).

Methods: The expected caesarean section rate was calculated from the rate of obstetric risk in the MOMA population, and rates of caesarean section in published work.

Findings: Three-quarters of women from hospitals of sub-Saharan Africa were delivered by caesarean section for maternal reasons. Such intervention was needed for six main reasons, protracted labour, abruptio placentae, previous caesarean section, eclampsia, placenta praevia, and malpresentation. Although the observed rate of caesarean section in west African women is 1.3%, our results, combined with those of published work suggest a range of 3.6-6.5% (median, 5.4%).

Interpretation: Our method might not be strictly accurate, but it is simple and provides informative findings that can help policy makers and health planners in sub-Saharan Africa to design and follow up programmes to reach the optimum caesarean section rate. Moreover, application of this method to hospital data could improve practitioners' assessments in these countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires