Maternal height and risk of caesarean section in singleton births in Sweden-A population-based study using data from the Swedish Pregnancy Register 2011 to 2016

PLoS One. 2018 May 29;13(5):e0198124. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198124. eCollection 2018.


Caesarean section (CS) has short and long term adverse health consequences, and should therefore only be undertaken when necessary. Risk factors such as maternal age, maternal body mass index (BMI) and fetal weight have been extensively investigated in relation to CS, but the significance of maternal height has been less explored in Sweden. The aim was to investigate the significance of maternal height on risk of CS in a representative, population-based sample from Sweden, also taking into account confounders. Data on singleton births in the Swedish Pregnancy Register 2011 to 2016 were collected, including women with heights of 140 cm and above, constituting a sample of 581,844 women. Data were analysed with epidemiological and biostatistical methods. Mean height was 166.1 cm. Women born outside Sweden were significantly shorter than women born in Sweden (162.8 cm vs. 167.1 cm, p<0.001). There was a decreasing risk of CS with increasing maternal height. This effect remained after adjustment for other risk factors for CS such as maternal age, BMI, gestational age, parity, high birth weight and country of birth. Frequency of CS was higher among women born outside Sweden compared with Swedish-born women (17.3% vs. 16.0%), however, in a multiple regression model country of birth outside Sweden diminished as a risk factor for CS. Maternal height of 178-179 cm was associated with the lowest risk of CS (OR = 0.76, CI95% 0.71-0.81), whereas height below 160 cm explained 7% of CS cases. BMI and maternal age are established factors involved in clinical assessments related to birth, and maternal height should increasingly enjoy a similar status in these considerations. Moreover, when healthcare professionals are counselling pregnant women, taller stature should be more emphasized as a positive indicator for successful vaginal birth to increase pregnant women's confidence in giving birth vaginally, with possible positive impacts for lowering CS rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Height*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers*
  • Parturition*
  • Pregnancy
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • Sweden
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This work was supported from Umeå University to IM. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.