Preferences for mode of delivery after previous caesarean section: what do women want, what do they get and how do they value outcomes?

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Women with one previous caesarean section must decide which mode of delivery they would prefer in their next pregnancy. This involves a choice between attempted vaginal birth and elective caesarean section.


To explore women’s mode of delivery preferences and the values placed on the outcomes of decision making. Greater insight into these issues could benefit both clinical care and future research.


Observational study using longitudinal data collected within a randomized controlled trial.

Setting and Participants

Seven hundred and forty-two women with one previous caesarean section recruited at four antenatal clinics in South West England and Scotland.

Main outcome measures

Mode of delivery preference recorded at 19 and 37 weeks’ gestation and visual analogue scale ratings of health and delivery outcomes.


Comparison of mid and late pregnancy preferences and actual mode of delivery shows that 57% of women hold the same mode of delivery preferences at both times and 65% of women actually have the birth they prefer. The visual analogue scale ratings show variation in the way women value the outcomes of the decision.

Discussion and Conclusions

Understanding the way women’s mode of delivery preferences change, how these relate to actual mode of delivery and how women value the outcomes of their decision will be beneficial to health professionals who wish to support women both during pregnancy and after birth. In addition, the visual analogue scale ratings provide evidence that may improve the development of population-level and economic models of decision making.

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