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WHO Report: Rise in Caesarean Section Rates, Amid Growing Inequalities in Access

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According to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO), caesarean section use continues to rise globally, now accounting for more than 1 in 5 (21%) of all childbirths. This number is set to continue increasing over the coming decade, with nearly a third (29%) of all births likely to take place by caesarean section by 2030, the research finds.

While a caesarean section can be an essential and lifesaving surgery, it can put women and babies at unnecessary risk of short- and long-term health problems if performed when there is not medical need.

There are significant discrepancies in a woman’s access to caesarean sections, depending on where in the world she lives. In the least developed countries, about 8% of women gave birth by caesarean section with only 5% in sub-Saharan Africa, indicating a concerning lack of access to this lifesaving surgery.

Conversely, in Latin America and the Caribbean, rates are as high as 4 in 10 (43%) of all births. In five countries (Dominican Republic, Brazil, Cyprus, Egypt and Turkey), caesarean sections now outnumber vaginal deliveries.

Worldwide caesarean section rates have risen from around 7% in 1990 to 21% today, and are projected to continue increasing over this current decade. If this trend continues, by 2030 the highest rates are likely to be in Eastern Asia (63%), Latin America and the Caribbean (54%), Western Asia (50%), Northern Africa (48%) Southern Europe (47%) and Australia and New Zealand (45%), the research suggests.

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