Scheduling the Stork: Media Portrayals of Women's and Physicians' Reasons for Elective Cesarean Delivery

Birth. 2015 Jun;42(2):181-8. doi: 10.1111/birt.12161. Epub 2015 Apr 16.


Background: Media interest in cesarean delivery has grown in recent years driven both by rising cesarean delivery rates and the decision by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) to permit elective cesarean (EC) delivery.

Methods: A content analysis of United States newspaper and magazine articles from 2000 to 2013 (n = 131 articles) was completed to understand how the news media portrays ECs.

Results: The majority of articles (71.8%) emphasized reasons to support women having an EC, while 38.2 percent of the articles exhibited themes of physician support for ECs. Relatively few articles mentioned reasons against ECs either from the women's perspective (11.5%) or the practitioners' (3.8%). The most common themes given for women choosing ECs were convenience/scheduling (48.9%), avoidance of pain or fear of labor (29.8%), and physical harm to women from vaginal birth (17.6%). Doctors' perspectives were less prevalent in the media than women's perspectives, but when mentioned they were almost exclusively in support of ECs for reasons including avoiding malpractice (28.2%), avoiding physical harm to the woman or baby (16.8%), and timing/scheduling (14.5%).

Discussion: Media coverage suggests ECs are widely accepted by both women and doctors, with women choosing an EC mainly for convenience/scheduling and fear. However, 43 percent of doctors surveyed by ACOG said they were not willing to perform the procedure, and surveys report that mothers rarely request an EC.

Keywords: decision making; elective cesareans; media portrayal; social norms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section* / methods
  • Cesarean Section* / psychology
  • Cesarean Section* / statistics & numerical data
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Decision Making
  • Elective Surgical Procedures* / methods
  • Elective Surgical Procedures* / psychology
  • Elective Surgical Procedures* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Physician's Role*
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Public Opinion