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Do Italian women prefer cesarean section? Results from a survey on mode of delivery preferences

Maria Regina Torloni1*, Ana Pilar Betrán2, Pilar Montilla3, Elisa Scolaro2, Armando Seuc2, Agustina Mazzoni4, Fernando Althabe4, Francesca Merzagora3, Gian Paolo Donzelli5 and Mario Merialdi2

Author Affiliations

1 Obstetrics Department, São Paulo Federal University, São Paulo, Brazil, Rua Borges Lagoa 564, conj. 63, São Paulo, SP, CEP 04038-000, Brazil

2 Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization, 20, via Appia CH-1211, Geneva, Switzerland

3 O.N.Da, Osservatorio Nazionale sulla salute della Donna, Milan, Italy, Foro Buonaparte, Milan, 48 2012, Italy

4 Institute for Clinical Effectiveness and Health Policy, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dr. Emilio Ravignani 2024, Buenos Aires, C1414CPV, Argentina

5 Meyer Children Hospital, University of Florence, Italy, Viale Gaetano Pieraccini, Florence, 24 50141, Italy

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-78

Published: 26 March 2013



About 20 million cesareans occur each year in the world and rates have steadily increased in almost all middle- and high-income countries over the last decades. Maternal request is often argued as one of the key forces driving this increase. Italy has the highest cesarean rate of Europe, yet there are no national surveys on the views of Italian women about their preferences on route of delivery. This study aimed to assess Italian women´s preference for mode of delivery, as well as reasons and factors associated with this preference, in a nationally representative sample of women.


This cross sectional survey was conducted between December 2010-March 2011. An anonymous structured questionnaire asked participants what was their preferred mode of delivery and explored the reasons for this preference by assessing their agreement to a series of statements. Participants were also asked to what extent their preference was influenced by a series of possible sources. The 1st phase of the study was carried out among readers of a popular Italian women´s magazine (Io Donna). In a 2nd phase, the study was complemented by a structured telephone interview.


A total of 1000 Italian women participated in the survey and 80% declared they would prefer to deliver vaginally if they could opt. The preference for vaginal delivery was significantly higher among older (84.7%), more educated (87.6%), multiparous women (82.3%) and especially among those without any previous cesareans (94.2%). The main reasons for preferring a vaginal delivery were not wanting to be separated from the baby during the first hours of life, a shorter hospital stay and a faster postpartum recovery. The main reasons for preferring a cesarean were fear of pain, convenience to schedule the delivery and because it was perceived as being less traumatic for the baby. The source which most influenced the preference of these Italian women was their obstetrician, followed by friends or relatives.


Four in five Italian women would prefer to deliver vaginally if they could opt. Factors associated with a higher preference for cesarean delivery were youth, nulliparity, lower education and a previous cesarean.

Health surveys; Delivery; Obstetric; Cesarean section; Vaginal birth after cesarean; Public opinion; Women