Fertility and pregnancy

Middle class women more likely to opt for caesarean birth

Better-off women more likley to opt for caesareans Too posh to push?

Wealthier women are more likely to choose to give birth by caesarean section, new research shows.

The number of caesarean sections performed in the UK has jumped in the past 30 years, with around one in four births in the UK by caesarean section.

However, this latest research also reveals the changes in caesarean rates in women from different social backgrounds which have taken place over the past 30 years.

A team of researchers at the University of Glasgow and the Scottish Chief Scientist's Office looked at nearly 36,000 births by caesarean section in Scotland in the years 1980-81, 1990-91 and 1999-2000.

Information from the baby's birth certificate, including parent's occupation and postcode was used to assess the social status of the parents.

Over thirty years, the number of emergency caesarean sections rose from 6.3 per cent of births to 11.9 per cent.

Poorer women were around 14 per cent more likely to have an emergency caesarean section in both 1980-81 and 1990-91, but by 2000 it was the same for all women in the study.

However, the same was not the case for elective (planned) caesareans. The number of elective caesareans increased from 3.6 per cent to 5.5 per cent of births, but by 2000 was more common in women from wealthier backgrounds.

Dr Ruth Dundas at the Medical Research Council said: "Thirty years ago mothers having Caesarean sections were more likely to come from deprived areas and/or from a lower social background. This was true for both elective and emergency sections.

"Ten years later the rates had changed so that, although women from a lower social background were more likely to have emergency sections, there was no difference between them and women from a higher social background in elective surgery rates.

"By 1999-2000 the rates had equalized for emergency section, but babies born by elective surgery were more likely to belong to mothers from the higher of the social classes measured."

Dr Dundas also added that more work was needed to explain why women from different backgrounds were more likely to have an elective caesarean section.

The findings are published in the journal BMC Public Health.

This article was published on Wed 18 May 2011

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