Clinicians' views of factors influencing decision-making for caesarean section: A systematic review and metasynthesis of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies

PLoS One. 2018 Jul 27;13(7):e0200941. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200941. eCollection 2018.


Background: Caesarean section rates are increasing worldwide and are a growing concern with limited explanation of the factors that influence the rising trend. Understanding obstetricians' and midwives' views can give insight to the problem. This systematic review aimed to offer insight and understanding, through aggregation, summary, synthesis and interpretation of findings from studies that report obstetricians' and midwives' views on the factors that influence the decision to perform caesarean section.

Methods: The electronic databases of PubMed (1958-2016), CINAHL (1988-2016), Maternity and Infant Care (1971-2016), PsycINFO (1980-2016) and Web of Science (1991-2016) were searched in September 2016. All quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods studies, published in English, whose aim was to explore obstetricians' and/or midwives' views of factors influencing decision-making for caesarean section were included. Papers were independently reviewed by two authors for selection by title, abstract and full text. Thomas et al's 12 assessment criteria checklist (2003) was used to assess methodological quality of the included studies.

Result: The review included 34 studies: 19 quantitative, 14 qualitative, and one using mixed methods, involving 7785 obstetricians and 1197 midwives from 20 countries. Three main themes, each with several subthemes, emerged. Theme 1: "clinicians' personal beliefs"-('Professional philosophies'; 'beliefs in relation to women's request for CS'; 'ambiguous versus clear clinical reasons'); Theme 2: "health care systems"-('litigation'; 'resources'; 'private versus public/insurance/payments'; 'guidelines and management policy'). Theme 3: "clinicians' characteristics" ('personal convenience'; 'clinicians' demographics'; 'confidence and skills').

Conclusion: This systematic review and metasynthesis identified clinicians' personal beliefs as a major factor that influenced the decision to perform caesarean section, further contributed by the influence of factors related to the health care system and clinicians' characteristics. Obstetricians and midwives are directly involved in the decision to perform a caesarean section, hence their perspectives are vital in understanding various factors that have influence on decision-making for caesarean section. These results can help clinicians identify and acknowledge their role as crucial members in the decision-making process for caesarean section within their organisation, and to develop intervention studies to reduce caesarean section rates in future.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section*
  • Decision Making*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Midwifery / statistics & numerical data
  • Obstetrics / statistics & numerical data

Grant support

This study was unfunded.