Background: Most studies examining determinants of rising rates of caesarean section have examined patterns in documented reasons for caesarean over time in a single location. Further insights could be gleaned from cross-cultural research that examines practice patterns in locations with disparate rates of caesarean section at a single time point.
Methods: We compared both rates of and main reason for pre-labour and intrapartum caesarean between England and Queensland, Australia, using data from retrospective cross-sectional surveys of women who had recently given birth in England (n = 5,250) and Queensland (n = 3,467).
Results: Women in Queensland were more likely to have had a caesarean birth (36.2%) than women in England (25.1% of births; OR = 1.44, 95% CI = 1.28-1.61), after adjustment for obstetric characteristics. Between-country differences were found for rates of pre-labour caesarean (21.2% vs. 12.2%) but not for intrapartum caesarean or assisted vaginal birth. Compared to women in England, women in Queensland with a history of caesarean were more likely to have had a pre-labour caesarean and more likely to have had an intrapartum caesarean, due only to a previous caesarean. Among women with no previous caesarean, Queensland women were more likely than women in England to have had a caesarean due to suspected disproportion and failure to progress in labour.
Conclusions: The higher rates of caesarean birth in Queensland are largely attributable to higher rates of caesarean for women with a previous caesarean, and for the main reason of having had a previous caesarean. Variation between countries may be accounted for by the absence of a single, comprehensive clinical guideline for caesarean section in Queensland.