In Mexico, nearly half of births to first-time mothers are C-sections

The exterior of Casa Materna (Maternity House) in Chapas, Mexico.

An analysis of cesarean birth rates in Mexico, the country in the Americas with the second-highest prevalence of cesarean deliveries (after only Brazil), has found large disparities in how and why women have cesarean births. 

Sylvia Guendelman

Sylvia Guendelman, Professor, Maternal and Child Health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

The study was published April 3 in the journal Health Affairs.

Sylvia Guendelman, a professor in UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, and her co-authors used 2014 Mexican birth certificate data to perform population-level data analyses of more than 600,000 first-time mothers. According to the study, 48.7 percent of these births were cesarean deliveries.

The study also found that enrollees in Seguro Popular, the public health insurance program, had lower cesarean birth rates than women in other insurance programs or those without insurance. The widest difference, however, was in the delivery location: Cesarean rates in private birthing facilities occurred almost twice as often as those taking place in other facilities. Individual Mexican states’ rates of cesarean births ranged widely, but presented no clear geographical patterns. 

“Mexico’s continuing transition toward universal health coverage through Seguro Popular may help curb the cesarean epidemic,” the authors conclude. “To do this, the healthcare system must tackle access barriers to public hospitals, increase the number of qualified staff members to oversee and support women through the labor process, and educate women about the benefits of vaginal birth.”

Read more about the study in Health Affairs.