Trends, wealth inequalities and the role of the private sector in caesarean section in the Middle East and North Africa: a repeat cross-sectional analysis of population-based surveys

Stephen J McCall, Aline Semaan, Noon Altijani, Charles Opondo, Mohamed Abdel-Fattah, Tamar Kabakian-Khasholian

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OBJECTIVE: To examine trends and variations of caesarean section by economic status and type of healthcare facility in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

METHODS: Secondary data analysis of nationally representative household surveys conducted between 2008-2020 across nine Arab countries in the MENA region. The study population was women aged 15-49 years with a live birth in the two years preceding the survey. Temporal changes in the proportion of deliveries by caesarean section in each country were calculated using generalised linear models and presented as risk differences (RD) with 95% confidence intervals (95%CI). Caesarean section was disaggregated by household wealth index and type of healthcare facility.

RESULTS: Use of caesarean section ranged from 57.3% (95%CI:55.6-59.1%) in Egypt to 5.7% of births (95%CI:4.9-6.6%) in Yemen. Overall, the use of caesarean section has increased across the MENA region, except in Jordan, where there was no evidence of change (RD -2.3 (95%CI: -6.0 ‒1.4)). Across most countries, caesarean section use was highest in the richest quintile compared to the poorest quintile, for example, 42.8% (95%CI:38.0-47.6%) vs. 22.6% (95%CI:19.6-25.9%) in Iraq, respectively. Proportion of caesarean section was higher in private sector facilities compared to public sector: 21.8% (95%CI:18.2-25.9%) vs. 15.7% (95%CI:13.3-18.4%) in Yemen, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Variations in caesarean section exist within and between Arab countries, and it was more commonly used amongst the richest quintiles and in private healthcare facilities. The private sector has a prominent role in observed trends. Urgent policies and interventions are required to address non-medically indicated intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0259791
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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