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Too many yet too few: the double burden of Caesarean births

Population and Societies

581, September 2020

What is the proportion of Caesarean births worldwide? How does it vary across countries? In this overview of the Caesarean section rate, Alexandre Dumont and Christophe Z. Guilmoto reveal significant differences between those countries where Caesarean sections are performed abusively and the rate is above the WHO-recommended standard—from 10% to 15%—and those where it is below.

The Caesarean section rate varies worldwide from 1% to 58%. It is particularly low (below 5%) in less developed countries in sub-Saharan Africa such as Mali (2%), Nigeria (3%), and the Congo (5%). At the other end of the spectrum, it is over 30% in European countries such as Cyprus (57%), Georgia (41%), Romania (40%), and Italy (35%). It is also high in Latin America, which has a long history of Caesarean deliveries. The Dominican Republic has the highest rate (58%), followed by Brazil (55%), Chile (50%), and Excuador (49%).

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