Objective: To assess the association between cesarean delivery rates and pregnancy outcomes in African health facilities.
Methods: Data were obtained from all births over 2-3 months in 131 facilities. Outcomes included maternal deaths, severe maternal morbidity, fresh stillbirths, and neonatal deaths and morbidity.
Results: Median cesarean delivery rate was 8.8% among 83439 births. Cesarean deliveries were performed in only 95 (73%) facilities. Facility-specific cesarean delivery rates were influenced by previous cesarean, pre-eclampsia, induced labor, referral status, and higher health facility classification scores. Pre-eclampsia increased the risks of maternal death, fresh stillbirths, and severe neonatal morbidity. Adjusted emergency cesarean delivery rate was associated with more fresh stillbirths, neonatal deaths, and severe neonatal morbidity--probably related to prolonged labor, asphyxia, and sepsis. Adjusted elective cesarean delivery rate was associated with fewer perinatal deaths.
Conclusion: Use of cesarean delivery is limited in the African health facilities surveyed. Emergency cesareans, when performed, are often too late to reduce perinatal deaths.