Do provider birth attitudes influence cesarean delivery rate: A cross-sectional study

Emily White VanGompel, Elliott K. Main, Daniel J Tancredi, Joy Melnikow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: When used judiciously, cesarean sections can save lives; but in the United States, prior research indicates that cesarean birth rates have risen beyond the threshold to help women and infants and become a contributor to increased maternal mortality and rising healthcare costs. Healthy People 2020 has set the goal for nulliparous, term, singleton, vertex (NTSV) cesarean birth rate at no more than 23.9% of births. Currently, cesarean rates vary from 6% to 69% in US hospitals, unexplained by clinical or demographic factors. This wide variation in cesarean use is also seen among individual providers of intrapartum care. Previous research of birth attitudes found providers of intrapartum care hold widely differing views, which may be a key underlying factor influencing practice variation; however, further study is needed to determine if differences in attitudes are associated with differences in clinical outcomes. The purpose of this study was to estimate the association between individual provider attitudes towards birth and their low-risk primary cesarean rate. Methods: Four hundred providers were drawn from a stratified random sample of all California providers of intrapartum care in 2013 and surveyed for their attitudes towards various aspects of labor and birth. Providers' NTSV cesarean birth rates were obtained for 2013 and 2014. Covariates included gender, years of experience, practice location, and primary hospital's NTSV cesarean rate. We used adjusted multivariate Poisson regression to compare cesarean rates and linear regression to compare attitude scores of providers meeting versus not meeting the Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) goal. Results: Two hundred nine total participants (obstetricians, family physicians, and midwives) completed surveys, of which 109 perform cesareans. Providers' NTSV cesarean rate was significantly associated with their composite attitudes score [IRR for each one-point increase 1.21 (95% CI 1.002-1.45)]. Physicians meeting the HP2020 goal held attitudes which were significantly more favorable towards vaginal birth: mean 2.70 (95% CI 2.58-2.83) versus 2.91 (95% CI 2.82-3.00), p <0.01. Conclusions: Provider attitudinal differences are associated with NTSV cesarean rates. Those meeting the HP2020 goal hold attitudes more favorable towards vaginal birth. These findings may present a modifiable target for quality improvement initiatives to decrease low risk primary cesareans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number184
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 29 2018


  • Cesarean section
  • Culture
  • Primary cesarean
  • Provider attitudes
  • Quality improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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