To determine the success of a program designed to reduce the cesarean section rate in a rural community hospital, to identify reasons for any reduction in the rate and to identify any accompanying increases in the maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality rates.
Longitudinal study of modes of delivery.
A 44-bed community hospital with a medical staff of nine family physicians serving a population of 9000.
All 1161 women who gave birth at the hospital from Jan. 1, 1985, to Dec. 31, 1989. Routinely recorded data were manually extracted from medical charts and entered into a computer database.
The guidelines of the National Consensus Conference on Aspects of Cesarean Birth (NCCACB) for vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC), management of breech presentation and the diagnosis of dystocia requiring cesarean section were introduced at the hospital in 1985.
The annual overall cesarean section rates and the rates among nulliparous women, multiparous women eligible for VBAC and multiparous women ineligible for VBAC.
The overall cesarean section rate decreased from 23% in 1985 to 13% in 1989 (p = 0.001). Among the nulliparous women the rate decreased from 23% to 12%, but the difference was insignificant (p = 0.069); this decrease was due to a drop in the number of dystocia-related cesarean sections. The rate among VBAC-eligible multiparous women decreased from 93% to 36% (p less than 0.001) because of an increased acceptance of VBAC by the patients and the physicians. The rate among multiparous women ineligible for VBAC was virtually unchanged. There were 20 neonatal transfers to an intensive care unit, with no tendency toward an increase over the study period. None of the mothers died; one newborn, of a nulliparous woman, died from a prolapsed umbilical cord.
The program was accompanied by a significant decrease in the cesarean section rate. Rural hospitals with facilities and personnel for emergency cesarean sections should consider the introduction of a similar program.
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Comment In: CMAJ. 1992 Jun 15;146(12):2137-8; author reply 2138-401530722
Erratum In: Can Med Assoc J 1992 May 15;146(10):1701