Cesarean Birth in BC

The rate of cesarean birth in Canada has risen dramatically in the last decade, a trend consistent across other developed countries. Our Canadian national cesarean rate has risen from 17% in the 1990’s to 26.9% in 2008. The chart below illustrates the trend of increasing cesarean births in British Columbia from 2000-2009.


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The cesarean rate British Columbia is second only to Newfoundland and Labrador among Canadian provinces, at 31.1% in 2008. Wide variability across provinces and territories, ranging from 6.9% in Nunavut to 31.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador suggest that there is room to safely decrease cesarean rates while simultaneously improving maternal and infant outcomes and reducing use of scarce health resources.


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Cesarean birth is associated with higher rates of maternal and newborn morbidity and death compared to vaginal birth, and uses considerable health care resources. A study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that the average cost of cesarean birth ($4600) is 60% higher than that of vaginal birth ($2800). In Canada, a 6% absolute reduction in cesarean birth from 26% to 20% would result in a total annual cost savings of $36,640,000 Reference: Canadian Institute for Health Information. Giving Birth in Canada: The Costs. Ottawa, Ontario, 2006.

In BC and Canada, our maternal demographic is changing. More women over the age of 35 are giving birth and maternal obesity, excessive weight gain during pregnancy and increasing rates of multiple pregnancies contribute to the trend of increasing cesarean births.

The charts below illustrate the rates of cesarean birth in all hospitals in BC in which there are 1,000 births or more each year. Rates for 2000 and 2005 are presented and the lowest and highest rates are presented in red.

These charts show that the cesarean rate increased among women both under and over 30 years of age. Our increasing cesarean birth rate cannot be explained on the basis of changing maternal demographics.


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