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BACKGROUND: There has been concern about rising rates of caesarean section worldwide. This Article reports the third phase of the WHO global survey, which aimed to estimate the rate of different methods of delivery and to examine the relation between method of delivery and maternal and perinatal outcomes in selected facilities in Africa and Latin America in 2004-05, and in Asia in 2007-08. METHODS: Nine countries participated in the Asia global survey: Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. In each country, the capital city and two other regions or provinces were randomly selected. We studied all women admitted for delivery during 3 months in institutions with 6000 or fewer expected deliveries per year and during 2 months in those with more than 6000 deliveries. We gathered data for institutions to obtain a detailed description of the health facility and its resources for obstetric care. We obtained data from women's medical records to summarise obstetric and perinatal events. FINDINGS: We obtained data for 109 101 of 112 152 deliveries reported in 122 recruited facilities (97% coverage), and analysed 107 950 deliveries. The overall rate of caesarean section was 27.3% (n=29 428) and of operative vaginal delivery was 3.2% (n=3465). Risk of maternal mortality and morbidity index (at least one of: maternal mortality, admission to intensive care unit [ICU], blood transfusion, hysterectomy, or internal iliac artery ligation) was increased for operative vaginal delivery (adjusted odds ratio 2.1, 95% CI 1.7-2.6) and all types of caesarean section (antepartum without indication 2.7, 1.4-5.5; antepartum with indication 10.6, 9.3-12.0; intrapartum without indication 14.2, 9.8-20.7; intrapartum with indication 14.5, 13.2-16.0). For breech presentation, caesarean section, either antepartum (0.2, 0.1-0.3) or intrapartum (0.3, 0.2-0.4), was associated with improved perinatal outcomes, but also with increased risk of stay in neonatal ICU (2.0, 1.1-3.6; and 2.1, 1.2-3.7, respectively). INTERPRETATION: To improve maternal and perinatal outcomes, caesarean section should be done only when there is a medical indication. FUNDING: US Agency for International Development (USAID); UNDP/UNFPA/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), WHO, Switzerland; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan; Ministry of Public Health, China; and Indian Council of Medical Research.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





490 - 499


Adolescent, Adult, Africa, Asia, Cesarean Section, Cluster Analysis, Delivery, Obstetric, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Latin America, Maternal Mortality, Perinatal Mortality, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Outcome, Risk Factors, World Health Organization, Young Adult