Women's preference for caesarean section: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

BJOG. 2011 Mar;118(4):391-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2010.02793.x. Epub 2010 Dec 7.


Background: The striking increase in caesarean section rates in middle- and high-income countries has been partly attributed to maternal request. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of women's preferences for caesarean section.

Objectives: To review the published literature on women's preferences for caesarean section.

Search strategy: A systematic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS and PsychINFO was performed. References of all included articles were examined.

Selection criteria: We included studies that quantitatively evaluated women's preferences for caesarean section in any country. We excluded articles assessing health providers' preferences and qualitative studies.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently screened abstracts of all identified citations, selected potentially eligible studies, and assessed their full-text versions. We conducted a meta-analysis of proportions, and a meta-regression analysis to determine variables significantly associated with caesarean section preference.

Main results: Thirty-eight studies were included (n = 19,403). The overall pooled preference for caesarean section was 15.6% (95% CI 12.5-18.9). Higher preference for caesarean section was reported in women with a previous caesarean section versus women without a previous caesarean section (29.4%; 95% CI 24.4-34.8 versus 10.1%; 95% CI 7.5-13.1), and those living in a middle-income country versus a high-income country (22.1%; 95% CI 17.6-26.9 versus 11.8%; 95% CI 8.9-15.1).

Authors' conclusions: Only a minority of women in a wide variety of countries expressed a preference for caesarean delivery. Further research is needed to better estimate the contribution of women's demand to the rising caesarean section rates.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Patient Preference*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis