Sexual and reproductive health

WHO statement on caesarean section rates

Executive summary

Authors:
WHO, HRP

Image of the WHO statement

Publication details

Number of pages: 8
Publication date: April 2015
Languages: English
WHO reference number: WHO/RHR/15.02

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Since 1985, the international healthcare community has considered the ideal rate for caesarean sections to be between 10-15%. Since then, caesarean sections have become increasingly common in both developed and developing countries. When medically necessary, a caesarean section can effectively prevent maternal and newborn mortality. Two new HRP studies show that when caesarean section rates rise towards 10% across a population, the number of maternal and newborn deaths decreases. When the rate goes above 10%, there is no evidence that mortality rates improve.

The lack of a standardized internationally-accepted classification system to monitor and compare caesarean section rates in a consistent and action-oriented manner is one of the factors that has hindered a better understanding of this trend. WHO proposes adopting the Robson classification as an internationally applicable caesarean section classification system.