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Women's Preference for a Cesarean Section: Incidence and Associated Factors

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Background: Few studies have examined women's preferences for birth. The object of this study was to determine the incidence of women's preferred type of birth, and the reasons and factors associated with their preference. Methods: Three hundred and ten women between 36 and 40 weeks' gestation were recruited from the antenatal clinic of a major metropolitan teaching hospital and the consulting rooms of six private obstetricians in Brisbane, Australia. Participants completed a questionnaire asking about their preferred type of birth, reasons for their preference, preparation for childbirth, level of anxiety and concerns, and the influence of the primary caregiver. Results: Two hundred and ninety women (93.5%) preferred a spontaneous vaginal birth; 20 women (6.4%) preferred a cesarean section. Of the latter group, most had a current obstetric complication or experienced a previously complicated delivery (p <0.001); 1 woman (0.3%) preferred a cesarean section in the absence of any known current or previous obstetric complication. Women who preferred a cesarean section were more anxious, were generally poorly informed of the risks of this procedure, and/or overestimated the safety of the procedure. Conclusions: Women who preferred a cesarean section were more likely to have experienced this type of birth previously and to have negative feelings about it. To decrease women's preference for a cesarean section, practitioners should reduce the primary cesarean delivery rate and improve the quality of emotional care for women who require a cesarean section. Caregivers should engage in a sensitive discussion of the risks and benefits of various birth options, including a vaginal birth after cesarean, with women who have previously experienced a cesarean birth before they make decisions about mode of delivery in a subsequent pregnancy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Jenny Gamble is a doctoral candidate and Debra Creedy is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Nursing and Health at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.

Publication date: June 1, 2001

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