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“It's All the Rage These Days”: University Students' Attitudes Toward Vaginal and Cesarean Birth

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Background:At 30 percent, British Columbia has the highest cesarean section rate in Canada. Little is known about the childbirth views and birthing preferences of college-aged women and men. The objectives of this study were to document (a) the prevalence of cesarean versus vaginal delivery as the preferred mode of delivery among nonpregnant university students without a history of childbirth, (b) the reasons for reported childbirth preferences, and (c) confidence in vaginal birth as a predictor of childbirth preference.Methods:A cohort of 3,680 male and female university students without a history of childbirth participated in an online survey of childbirth preferences. The study used a mixed methods approach (quantitative thematic analysis and logistic regression modeling). Prevalence of, and reasons for, preferred mode of delivery were analyzed separately for male and female respondents.Results:Most men and women responded that they preferred vaginal delivery, with 9 percent stating a preference for cesarean delivery. Reasons for preferred mode of delivery were similar for men and women. For women, confidence in vaginal birth emerged as a significant predictor of childbirth preference.Conclusions:Results indicate that a preference for cesarean section is linked to fear of childbirth and driven by low confidence in vaginal birth. Educational strategies targeting university-aged men and women may be helpful in alleviating fears of vaginal birth and providing evidence-based information about different birth options.

Keywords: attitudes; birth choice; cesarean section; university students; vaginal birth

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Nichole Fairbrother is an Investigator in the Women's Health Research Institute; 2: Elaine Carty is a Professor in the School of Nursing, University of British Columbia; 3: Nané Jordan is a Research Associate in The Centre for Cross-Faculty Inquiry in Education, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia; 4: Carole Miceli, Yarra Vostrcil, and Laura Willihnganz are Student Midwives in the Division of Midwifery, Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Publication date: June 1, 2009


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