Article Text

Trends and projections of caesarean section rates: global and regional estimates
  1. Ana Pilar Betran1,
  2. Jiangfeng Ye2,
  3. Ann-Beth Moller1,
  4. João Paulo Souza3,
  5. Jun Zhang2
  1. 1UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, Geneve, Switzerland
  2. 2Ministry of Education—Shanghai Key Laboratory of Children’s Environmental Health, Xinhua Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China
  3. 3Department of Social Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ana Pilar Betran; betrana{at}


Background The caesarean section (CS) rate continues to increase across high-income, middle-income and low-income countries. We present current global and regional CS rates, trends since 1990 and projections for 2030.

Methods We obtained nationally representative data on the CS rate from countries worldwide from 1990 to 2018. We used routine health information systems reports and population-based household surveys. Using the latest available data, we calculated current regional and subregional weighted averages. We estimated trends by a piecewise analysis of CS rates at the national, regional and global levels from 1990 to 2018. We projected the CS rate and the number of CS expected in 2030 using autoregressive integrated moving-average models.

Results Latest available data (2010–2018) from 154 countries covering 94.5% of world live births shows that 21.1% of women gave birth by caesarean worldwide, averages ranging from 5% in sub-Saharan Africa to 42.8% in Latin America and the Caribbean. CS has risen in all regions since 1990. Subregions with the greatest increases were Eastern Asia, Western Asia and Northern Africa (44.9, 34.7 and 31.5 percentage point increase, respectively) while sub-Saharan Africa and Northern America (3.6 and 9.5 percentage point increase, respectively) had the lowest rise. Projections showed that by 2030, 28.5% of women worldwide will give birth by CS (38 million caesareans of which 33.5 million in LMIC annually) ranging from 7.1% in sub-Saharan Africa to 63.4% in Eastern Asia .

Conclusion The use of CS has steadily increased worldwide and will continue increasing over the current decade where both unmet need and overuse are expected to coexist. In the absence of global effective interventions to revert the trend, Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will face a complex scenario with morbidity and mortality associated with the unmet need, the unsafe provision of CS and with the concomitant overuse of the surgical procedure which drains resources and adds avoidable morbidity and mortality. If the Sustainable Development Goals are to be achieved, comprehensively addressing the CS issue is a global priority.

  • maternal health
  • public health
  • obstetrics
  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. No additional data.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information. No additional data.

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  • Handling editor Sanni Yaya

  • Contributors APB and JZ had the original idea. A-BM collected and curated the data. JY conducted the analysis. APB, JY, A-BM, JPS and JZ wrote the manuscript and contributed to data interpretation. All authors took responsibility for the final manuscript.

  • Funding UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEFUnicef/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.