Prelabor cesarean section: the role of advanced maternal age and associated factors

Katrini Guidolini Martinelli Silvana Granado Nogueira da Gama André Henrique do Vale de Almeida Marcos Nakamura-Pereira Edson Theodoro dos Santos NetoAbout the authors

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

to evaluate whether advanced maternal age (AMA) is associated with prelabor cesarean section and to identify the factors associated with prelabor cesarean section in AMA women, according to the mode of type of labor financing (private or public).

METHODS

Based on the Birth in Brazil survey, the research was conducted on representative sample of mothers for the country (Brazil), regions, type of hospital and location (capital or not), in 2011/2012. This study included 15,071 women from two age groups: 20–29 years and ≥ 35 years. The information was collected from interviews with puerperal woman, prenatal cards, and medical records of mothers and newborns. Multiple logistic regression modelling was used to verify the association between prelabor cesarean section and maternal, prenatal and childbirth characteristics, according to the mode of financing.

RESULTS

Our results showed a higher use of prelabor cesarean section for AMA (≥ 35 years) women in the public service (OR = 1.63; 95%CI 1.38–1.94) and in the private service (OR = 1.44; 95%CI 1.13–1.83), compared with women aged 20–29 years. In the adjusted model, we recorded three factors associated with the prelabor cesarean section in AMA women in both, public and private sectors: the same professional in prenatal care and childbirth (OR = 4.97 and OR = 4.66); nulliparity (OR = 6.17 and OR = 10.08), and multiparity with previous cesarean section (from OR = 5.73 to OR = 32.29). The presence of obstetric risk (OR = 1.94; 95%CI .44–2.62) also contributed to the occurrence of prelabor cesarean section in women who gave birth in the public service.

CONCLUSIONS

AMA was an independent risk factor for prelabor cesarean in public and private services. In the public, prelabor cesarean in AMA was more influenced by clinical criteria. Higher chance of prelabor cesarean section in nulliparous women increases the chance of cesarean section in multiparous women, as we showed in this study, which increases the risk of anomalous placental implantation.

Cesarean Section; Maternal and Child Health; Maternal Age; Pregnancy Complications

INTRODUCTION

The percentage of women with advanced maternal age (AMA) has been increasing in high11. Oakley L, Penn N, Pipi M, Oteng-Ntim E, Doyle P. Risk of adverse obstetric and neonatal outcomes by maternal age: quantifying individual and population level risk using routine UK maternity data. PLoS One. 2016;11(10):e0164462. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0164462
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.016...
, middle-, and low-income countries44. Laopaiboon M, Lumbiganon P, Intarut N, Mori R, Ganchimeg T, Vogel JP, et al. Advanced maternal age and pregnancy outcomes: a multicountry assessment. BJOG. 2014;121 Suppl 1:49-56. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659...
,55. Ministério da Saúde (BR), Secretaria de Vigilância em Saúde, Departamento de Análise de Situação de Saúde. Sistema de Informação de Nascidos Vivos. Datasus. Brasília, DF 2018 [cited 2019 Dec 28]. Available from: http://tabnet.datasus.gov.br/cgi/tabcgi.exe?sinasc/cnv/nvuf.def
http://tabnet.datasus.gov.br/cgi/tabcgi....
. In Brazil, in 1994, only 7.6% of births occurred in women aged 35 and older. In 2017 this percentage increased to 14.4%, indicating an increase of almost 90% in the number of pregnant women in this age group55. Ministério da Saúde (BR), Secretaria de Vigilância em Saúde, Departamento de Análise de Situação de Saúde. Sistema de Informação de Nascidos Vivos. Datasus. Brasília, DF 2018 [cited 2019 Dec 28]. Available from: http://tabnet.datasus.gov.br/cgi/tabcgi.exe?sinasc/cnv/nvuf.def
http://tabnet.datasus.gov.br/cgi/tabcgi....
. AMA has been associated with several negative maternal and perinatal outcomes, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, placenta previa, placental abruption, preterm birth, low birth weight, congenital anomalies, and perinatal mortality33. Ludford I, Scheil W, Tucker G, Grivell R. Pregnancy outcomes for nulliparous women of advanced maternal age in South Australia, 1998-2008. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2012;52(3):235-41. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-828X.2012.01442.x
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-828X.2012...
,66. Wu Y, Chen Y, Shen M, Guo Y, Wen SW, Lanes A, et al. Adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes among singleton pregnancies in women of very advanced maternal age: a retrospective cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-2147-9
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-2147-...
,77. Martinelli KG, Garcia EM, Santos Neto ET, Gama SGN. Advanced maternal age and its association with placenta praevia and placental abruption: a meta-analysis. Cad Saude Publica. 2018;34(2):e00206116. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311x00206116
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311x0020611...
.

Some of these conditions related to AMA increase the chances of cesarean section or represent unequivocal indications for surgery—as is the case for total placenta previa. A 17 year-long study found a greater chance of cesarean section in both nulliparous and multiparous pregnancies among AMA women88. Rydahl E, Declercq E, Juhl M, Maimburg RD. Cesarean section on a rise -- Does advanced maternal age explain the increase? A population register-based study. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210655
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.021...
. Another study has also showed an increase in the chance of elective and emergency cesarean sections in AMA women99. Herstad L, Klungsoyr K, Skjaerven R, Tanbo T, Forsén L, Abyholm T, et al. Maternal age and emergency operative deliveries at term: a population-based registry study among low-risk primiparous women. BJOG. 2015;122(12):1642-51. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12962
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12962...
.

Although women with AMA are more prone to cesarean section because of complications in pregnancy33. Ludford I, Scheil W, Tucker G, Grivell R. Pregnancy outcomes for nulliparous women of advanced maternal age in South Australia, 1998-2008. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2012;52(3):235-41. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-828X.2012.01442.x
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-828X.2012...
,1010. Waldenström U, Ekéus C. Risk of labor dystocia increases with maternal age irrespective of parity: a population-based register study. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2017;96(9):1063-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.13167
https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.13167...
, the strength of association remains even with a comprehensive adjustment for confounding factors that incorporate comorbidities before pregnancy, demographic and anthropometric factors, as well as pregnancy, obstetric, and fetal complications88. Rydahl E, Declercq E, Juhl M, Maimburg RD. Cesarean section on a rise -- Does advanced maternal age explain the increase? A population register-based study. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210655
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.021...
.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cesarean section without medical indication may bring risks to maternal and perinatal health. These risks include admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), need for blood transfusion, and fetal and neonatal mortality1111. Souza J, Gülmezoglu A, Lumbiganon P, Laopaiboon M, Carroli G, Fawole B, et al; WHO Global Survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health Research Group. Cesarean section without medical indications is associated with an increased risk of adverse short-term maternal outcomes: the 2004-2008 WHO Global Survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health. BMC Med. 2010;8:71. https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-8-71
https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-8-71...
. Elective cesarean section has also been associated with newborn respiratory disorders, especially when performed prior to 39 weeks1212. Leal MC, Esteves-Pereira AP, Nakamura-Pereira M, Domingues RMSM, Dias MAB, Moreira ME, et al. Burden of early-term birth on adverse infant outcomes: a population-based cohort study in Brazil. BMJ Open. 2017;7(12):e017789. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017789
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017...
.

In addition to AMA, the mode of financing of the childbirth has a considerable influence on the rate of cesarean section1313. Mariani GL, Vain NE. The rising incidence and impact of non-medically indicated pre-labour cesarean section in Latin America. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2019;24(1):11-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.siny.2018.09.002
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.siny.2018.09.0...
. This is evidenced in Brazil, where around 85% of all newborn in the private sector are delivered via cesarean section, compared with 35% in the public sector1414. Betrán AP, Temmerman M, Kingdon C, Mohiddin A, Opiyo N, Torloni MR, et al. Interventions to reduce unnecessary cesarean sections in healthy women and babies. Lancet. 2018;392(10155):1358-68. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31927-5
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31...
. This study aims to evaluate whether AMA is associated with prelabor cesarean section. It also aims to identify the factors associated with prelabor cesarean section in AMA women, according to the mode of financing the childbirth (private or public).

METHODS

Data collection occurred during the period from February 2011 to October 2012. The study draws on a national hospital-based survey of puerperal women and their newborns, Birth in Brazil. The sample was selected in three stages. The first stage included hospitals with more than 500 deliveries per year, stratified according to the Brazil’s macro-regions (North, South, Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest), location (capital or other cities) and type of service (public, private or mixed). In the second stage, using the reverse sampling method, researchers defined the number of days necessary to interview 90 puerperal women in each one of the 266 previously selected hospitals (minimum of seven days). In the third stage, the puerperal women and their newborns were selected. Additional information on the sample design can be found in the reference study1616. Vasconcellos MTL, Silva PLN, Pereira APE, Schilithz AOC, Souza Junior PRB, Szwarcwald CL. Desenho da amostra Nascer no Brasil: Pesquisa Nacional sobre Parto e Nascimento. Cad Saude Publica. 2014;30 Supl 1:S49-58. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00176013
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0017601...
.

“Birth in Brazil” collected data from electronic questionnaires, interviews with puerperal woman during hospital stay, prenatal cards photographed and transcribed into a standardized form, and maternal records. Medical records were analyzed after the patient’s discharge or any time before the 42nd day of hospitalization. Further details on data collection are described elsewhere1616. Vasconcellos MTL, Silva PLN, Pereira APE, Schilithz AOC, Souza Junior PRB, Szwarcwald CL. Desenho da amostra Nascer no Brasil: Pesquisa Nacional sobre Parto e Nascimento. Cad Saude Publica. 2014;30 Supl 1:S49-58. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00176013
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0017601...
.

Although the data were collected from 2011 to 2012, there was little change in relation to this topic in Brazil. The rate of cesarean section remains high (51.8% in 2012 and 54.1% in 2017), although the rate of prelabor cesarean section has slightly decreased in the period, according to the study by Leal et al. (2019)1717. Leal MC, Bittencourt SA, Esteves-Pereira AP, Ayres BVS, Silva LBRAA, Thomaz EBAF, et al. Avanços na assistência ao parto no Brasil: resultados preliminares de dois estudos avaliativos. Cad Saude Publica. 2019;35(7):e00223018. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311x00223018
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311x0022301...
.

This analysis considered all puerperal women aged 20–29 years and 35 years or older, present in the sample “Birth in Brazil” to fulfill de objective of this study. The cutoff point of the AMA group was chosen based on the Brazilian neonatal mortality rate that exceeds seven deaths per 1,000 live births and begins to advance faster for women aged 35 years or older1818. Ministério da Saúde (BR), Secretaria de Vigilância em Saúde, Departamento de Análise de Situação de Saúde. Sistema de Informação sobre Mortalidade. Datasus. Brasília, DF; 2018 [cited 2018 Nov 20]. Available from: http://tabnet.datasus.gov.br/cgi/deftohtm.exe?sim/cnv/inf10uf.def
http://tabnet.datasus.gov.br/cgi/deftoht...
. The age group of 20–29 years is considered medically favorable for reproduction and childbirth1919. Liu X, Zhang W. Effect of maternal age on pregnancy: a retrospective cohort study. Chin Med J (Engl). 2014;127(12): 2241-6..

The first variable, maternal age, was divided into two groups: 20–29 years and ≥ 35 years of age. The birth outcome variable was related to the type of childbirth according to labor (vaginal, forceps-assisted, prelabor cesarean section, and labor with cesarean section). For statistical analysis, we used a single category for childbirths in which women went into labor (vaginal, forceps-assisted, and cesarean after spontaneous, or induced labor). Women undergoing prelabor cesarean section composed the second category. Furthermore, we used mode of financing of childbirth to stratify the results – mode of service where child was delivered (public or private). Researchers collected data on maternal age and financing of childbirth via interview, whereas the outcome variable was collected based on maternal record.

Additional variables related to prenatal care and childbirth: same health professional who performed prenatal care and childbirth (yes/no), the need to search for a place to give birth – in cases where the mother was not assisted at the first maternity hospital sought for childbirth (yes/no), initial preference for the type of childbirth (cesarean section, vaginal/no preference), minimum overall adequacy of prenatal care (adequate, inadequate), and obstetric risk (low and high). The obstetric backgrounds addressed included: the number of previous cesarean sections (none, one, and two or more), and parity (nulliparous, one or two previous childbirth, and three or more previous childbirth).

The minimum Adequacy of Prenatal Care Utilization Index recommended by the Brazilian Ministry of Health was adopted and adapted by Domingues et al.2020. Domingues RMSM, Viellas EF, Dias MAB, Torres JA, Theme-Filha MM, Gama SGN, et al. Adequação da assistência pré-natal segundo as características maternas no Brasil. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2015;37(3):140-7.. Prenatal care was considered minimally adequate when the onset of care occurred before the 12th week of gestation; when the number of appointments was appropriate for the gestational age at delivery; when at least one of the routine tests was carried out (serology for syphilis, fasting glucose blood test, urine test, HIV serology, and ultrasonography); and when the pregnant women has received guidance regarding the maternity hospital for delivery.

Regarding obstetric risk, women who met the following criteria were considered low risk: no diabetes or hypertensive disease, no obesity (BMI < 30 kg/m2), HIV negative, infant gestational age between 37 and 41 weeks at birth, single pregnancy, fetus in cephalic presentation, birth weight between 2,500g and 4,499g, and birth weight between the 5th and 95th percentile weight according to gestational age. These favorable outcomes for both mother and newborn were considered proxy for a pregnancy without complications. Women who presented pathologies that did not fall into these groups were not included in the criterion2121. Leal MC, Pereira APE, Domingues RMSM, Theme Filha MM, Dias MAB, Nakamura-Pereira M, et al. Intervenções obstétricas durante o trabalho de parto e parto em mulheres brasileiras de risco habitual. Cad Saude Publica. 2014;30 Supl 1:S17-32. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X00151513
https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311X0015151...
. Finally, obstetric risk was represented by a summary measure (low and high).

The study considered the following sociodemographic characteristics: maternal age (20–29 years and ≥ 35 years – AMA), mother’s level of education (≤ 7 years, 8–10 years, ≥ 11 years), skin color (White and non-white) and marital status (living with or without a partner).

All analyses considered the complex design of sampling and they were carried out according to the mode of financing of childbirth (public or private). Moreover, each stratum received a calibration procedure by basic sample weights to ensure that the distribution of puerperal women was comparable to that observed in births of the population sampled in 2011.

The Rao-Scott chi-square test with 95% confidence interval was uses in order to test the homogeneity of the proportions of the maternal, prenatal and childbirth characteristics according to the maternal age (20–29 years and 35 years of age or older). The same test was used to test whether these characteristics were associated with prelabor cesarean sections. Subsequently, to verify the association of AMA and prelabor cesarean sections, we performed a logistic regression model. We included controls for confounding factors for each type of financing. Additionally, we applied a logistic regression model for AMA women – according to the mode of financing – to identify factors associated with prelabor cesarean section. We tested the effects for interaction before the final analysis in all regressions, and when they were present, they were maintained in the final analyses. Pseudo-R2statistics (Cox & Snell and Nagelkerke) was used to choose the best model, whose value was closer to 1. Adjusted analyses included all variables from the unadjusted analysis with p-value < 0.10.

This research was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the National School of Public Health of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, No. 92/2010 and 2.041.963/2017. The digital consent of each puerperal woman was obtained with an informed consent form, which was issued before the interview. The same applies for the hospital units directors.

RESULTS

We included 15,071 women in this analysis. Out of this group, 12,562 were aged from 20 to 29 years (83.4%), 2,043 were aged from 35 to 39 years (13.5%) and 466 were older than 40 years (3.1%). Among women who had public funding for childbirth, 13.6% were AMA, whereas in private facilities, 28.4% of women who gave birth were AMA.

In the public sector, AMA women presented lower levels of education, lived with a partner more frequently, were more frequently served by the same physician both during prenatal care and childbirth, searched less for the right health care unit for childbirth, had higher preference for cesarean sections, showed higher parity, and had more previous cesarean sections and more prelabor cesarean sections. Regarding obstetric risk, all indicators assessed had a greater prevalence among AMA women, except for HIV infection (Table 1).

Table 1
Maternal, prenatal and childbirth characteristics, by maternal age and type of financing of childbirth, Brazil, 2011–2012.

Furthermore, in the private sector, AMA women presented higher levels of education, were predominantly white, were served by the same physician both during prenatal care and childbirth, had inadequate prenatal care, had more preference for cesarean sections, showed higher parity, had more previous cesarean sections, and had more prelabor cesarean sections. As for obstetric risk, hypertensive disease, pre-gestational and gestational diabetes were more frequent in AMA women, as well as the classification of gestational risk (Table 1).

Table 2 shows that AMA women received more prelabor cesarean sections than women aged from 20 to 29, both in public (45.4% vs. 35.6%) and private health care services (89.3% vs. 83.2%). In addition to AMA, other factors associated with prelabor cesarean sections included: higher levels of education, white skin color, same physician for both prenatal care and during childbirth, not searching for the right healthcare unit for childbirth, initial preference for cesarean section, nulliparity, previous cesarean sections, and risky pregnancy. As for the public service, an association was observed between adequate prenatal care and cesarean sections.

Table 2
Type of childbirth according to maternal and prenatal characteristics and childbirth by type of financing of childbirth, Brazil, 2011–2012.

Table 3 presents the adjusted model of factors associated with prelabor cesarean sections in both public and private health care. Maternal age ≥ 35 years increases the likelihood of prelabor cesarean section by roughly 50%, when compared to postpartum women aged 20–29 years. The factors that yielded the greatest increase in the chance of cesarean section without labor included: previous cesarean section, nulliparity and the same medical doctor during both prenatal care and childbirth, both in public and private health care services.

Table 3
Factors associated with cesarean section without labor by type of financing of labor, Brazil, 2011–2012.

Table 4 shows the factors associated with prelabor cesarean section in AMA women. In both sectors, women with higher levels of education, who were assisted by the same medical doctor both in prenatal care and during childbirth, preferred cesarean section, were nulliparous, and had previous cesarean section, were more likely to receive prelabor cesarean section. White skin color and high obstetric risk were associated with prelabor cesarean section only in the public healthcare service.

Table 4
Type of childbirth according to maternal and prenatal characteristics and childbirth by type of financing of childbirth in older women ≥ 35 years (n = 2,460), Brazil, 2011–2012.

In the adjusted model, the factors associated with prelabor cesarean section in AMA women, in both public and private health care sectors, included: the same physician during both prenatal care and childbirth, initial preference for a cesarean section, nulliparity, one previous cesarean section, and two or more previous cesarean sections. In addition, for women who received attention in the public healthcare service, results indicated that the presence of obstetric risk contributed to the occurrence of prelabor cesarean sections (Table 5).

Table 5
Factors associated with cesarean section without labor in women aged ≥ 35 years (n = 2,460), by type of financing of labor, Brazil, 2011–2012.

DISCUSSION

AMA women with private care presented more favorable maternal characteristics than those who gave birth in public health care services. These characteristics included higher education levels, less time searching for a place to give birth, and less obstetric risk. Regardless of the type of financing of childbirth, AMA was independently associated with prelabor cesarean section. Moreover, among advanced maternal age women, obstetric characteristics such as previous cesarean section or nulliparity, follow-up with a single physician during prenatal care and childbirth, and preference for cesarean section at the beginning of pregnancy, composed key factors for the occurrence of prelabor cesarean section. Furthermore, AMA women in public health care service also presented obstetric risk associated with prelabor cesarean section. Previous cesarean section, prenatal care, and delivery with the same physician were found as characteristics that contributed the most to a prelabor cesarean section.

Advanced maternal age women attended in public health care service presented similar characteristics to those of middle- and low-income women from other countries. These included: low schooling44. Laopaiboon M, Lumbiganon P, Intarut N, Mori R, Ganchimeg T, Vogel JP, et al. Advanced maternal age and pregnancy outcomes: a multicountry assessment. BJOG. 2014;121 Suppl 1:49-56. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659...
,2222. Ayala-Peralta F, Guevara-Rios E, Rodriguez-Herrera MA, Ayala-Palomino R, Quiñones-Vásquez LA, Luna-Figueroa A, et al. Edad materna avanzada y morbilidad obstétrica. Rev Peru Investig Materno Perinat. 2016;5(2):9-15. https://doi.org/10.33421/inmp.201660
https://doi.org/10.33421/inmp.201660...
, having a partner44. Laopaiboon M, Lumbiganon P, Intarut N, Mori R, Ganchimeg T, Vogel JP, et al. Advanced maternal age and pregnancy outcomes: a multicountry assessment. BJOG. 2014;121 Suppl 1:49-56. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659...
,2222. Ayala-Peralta F, Guevara-Rios E, Rodriguez-Herrera MA, Ayala-Palomino R, Quiñones-Vásquez LA, Luna-Figueroa A, et al. Edad materna avanzada y morbilidad obstétrica. Rev Peru Investig Materno Perinat. 2016;5(2):9-15. https://doi.org/10.33421/inmp.201660
https://doi.org/10.33421/inmp.201660...
, and multiparity2222. Ayala-Peralta F, Guevara-Rios E, Rodriguez-Herrera MA, Ayala-Palomino R, Quiñones-Vásquez LA, Luna-Figueroa A, et al. Edad materna avanzada y morbilidad obstétrica. Rev Peru Investig Materno Perinat. 2016;5(2):9-15. https://doi.org/10.33421/inmp.201660
https://doi.org/10.33421/inmp.201660...
. On the other hand, women who attended the private health care service presented similar characteristics to those of high-income countries, such as high schooling66. Wu Y, Chen Y, Shen M, Guo Y, Wen SW, Lanes A, et al. Adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes among singleton pregnancies in women of very advanced maternal age: a retrospective cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-2147-9
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-2147-...
, white skin color11. Oakley L, Penn N, Pipi M, Oteng-Ntim E, Doyle P. Risk of adverse obstetric and neonatal outcomes by maternal age: quantifying individual and population level risk using routine UK maternity data. PLoS One. 2016;11(10):e0164462. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0164462
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.016...
, nulliparity, and previous cesarean sections22. Claramonte Nieto M, Meler Barrabes E, Garcia Martínez S, Gutiérrez Prat M, Serra Zantop B. Impact of aging on obstetric outcomes: defining advanced maternal age in Barcelona. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):342. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2415-3
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2415-...
. These aspects indicate an inequality of resources in Brazil. However, regardless of the type of financing of childbirth, postpartum AMA women had a higher percentage of prelabor cesarean sections when compared to younger women. This evidence agrees with results from other studies22. Claramonte Nieto M, Meler Barrabes E, Garcia Martínez S, Gutiérrez Prat M, Serra Zantop B. Impact of aging on obstetric outcomes: defining advanced maternal age in Barcelona. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):342. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2415-3
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2415-...
,44. Laopaiboon M, Lumbiganon P, Intarut N, Mori R, Ganchimeg T, Vogel JP, et al. Advanced maternal age and pregnancy outcomes: a multicountry assessment. BJOG. 2014;121 Suppl 1:49-56. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659...
,2323. Wang Y, Tanbo T, Åbyholm T, Henriksen T. The impact of advanced maternal age and parity on obstetric and perinatal outcomes in singleton gestations. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011;284(1):31-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-x
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-...
.

As previously observed in similar analyses, the percentage of elective cesarean sections in Brazil is much higher than in other countries2424. Nakamura-Pereira M, Leal MC, Esteves-Pereira AP, Domingues RMSM, Torres JA, Dias MAB, et al. Use of Robson classification to assess cesarean section rate in Brazil: the role of source of payment for childbirth. Reprod Health. 2016;13 Suppl 3:128. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-016-0228-7
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-016-0228-...
. In Norway2323. Wang Y, Tanbo T, Åbyholm T, Henriksen T. The impact of advanced maternal age and parity on obstetric and perinatal outcomes in singleton gestations. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011;284(1):31-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-x
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-...
, for example, the percentage of elective cesarean sections in advanced maternal age women was 18.0% for nulliparous women and 19.3% for multiparous women. These values are similar to those found in the WHO study conducted predominantly in low- and middle-income countries44. Laopaiboon M, Lumbiganon P, Intarut N, Mori R, Ganchimeg T, Vogel JP, et al. Advanced maternal age and pregnancy outcomes: a multicountry assessment. BJOG. 2014;121 Suppl 1:49-56. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12659...
. Conversely, in Brazil, this value reached 89.3% of AMA women in the private health care sector. However, the OR (1.63 in the public sector and 1.44 in the private sector) was even lower than that found for nulliparous women in Norway2323. Wang Y, Tanbo T, Åbyholm T, Henriksen T. The impact of advanced maternal age and parity on obstetric and perinatal outcomes in singleton gestations. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011;284(1):31-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-x
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-...
, denoting the very high percentage of antepartum cesarean sections for young women in Brazil.

In a case comparable to Brazil, a study carried out in Australia showed that more AMA women were attended in private health care services (50.2%) than in public health care services (24.2%). In Australia, the percentage of advance maternal age women may have been higher because of the characteristics of the study, which only included nulliparous women who presented better socioeconomic conditions than multiparous women of advanced maternal age33. Ludford I, Scheil W, Tucker G, Grivell R. Pregnancy outcomes for nulliparous women of advanced maternal age in South Australia, 1998-2008. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2012;52(3):235-41. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-828X.2012.01442.x
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-828X.2012...
,2525. Carolan M, Frankowska D. Advanced maternal age and adverse perinatal outcome: a review of the evidence. Midwifery. 2011;27(6):793-801. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.006
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.0...
. This non-clinical characteristic contributed to an increase in the probability of obstetric intervention, such as prelabor cesarean section, despite the fact that women who were attended in the private sector presented a lower likelihood of gestational complications2525. Carolan M, Frankowska D. Advanced maternal age and adverse perinatal outcome: a review of the evidence. Midwifery. 2011;27(6):793-801. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.006
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.0...
, as in our study.

The higher risk of cesarean section in women with advanced maternal age has been associated, by some authors, with a higher risk of dystocia because of myometrial contractility is predisposed to inefficiency1010. Waldenström U, Ekéus C. Risk of labor dystocia increases with maternal age irrespective of parity: a population-based register study. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2017;96(9):1063-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.13167
https://doi.org/10.1111/aogs.13167...
,2323. Wang Y, Tanbo T, Åbyholm T, Henriksen T. The impact of advanced maternal age and parity on obstetric and perinatal outcomes in singleton gestations. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011;284(1):31-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-x
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-...
. However, when assessing only the relationship between AMA and antepartum cesarean section, this confounder was removed from the analysis. Some studies have addressed this relationship, and it remains equal, even with a comprehensive adjustment for confounding factors2323. Wang Y, Tanbo T, Åbyholm T, Henriksen T. The impact of advanced maternal age and parity on obstetric and perinatal outcomes in singleton gestations. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2011;284(1):31-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-x
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-010-1587-...
,2525. Carolan M, Frankowska D. Advanced maternal age and adverse perinatal outcome: a review of the evidence. Midwifery. 2011;27(6):793-801. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.006
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2010.07.0...
. Theses studies suggest that the association is maintained by non-clinical variables.

In this study, even after controlling significant confounding factors – such as gestational risk, parity with identification of previous cesarean sections, and schooling – advanced maternal age continued to be associated with prelabor cesarean sections. The relationship between maternal age and risk of obstetric interventions is not yet well understood. However, it is possible that obstetricians and pregnant women may consider cesarean sections safer, especially when women are nulliparous closer to the end of their reproductive life, or if they have been submitted to assisted reproduction88. Rydahl E, Declercq E, Juhl M, Maimburg RD. Cesarean section on a rise -- Does advanced maternal age explain the increase? A population register-based study. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210655
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.021...
,1313. Mariani GL, Vain NE. The rising incidence and impact of non-medically indicated pre-labour cesarean section in Latin America. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2019;24(1):11-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.siny.2018.09.002
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.siny.2018.09.0...
. Also, the perception of risk may lower the threshold for interventions among obstetric personnel, could lead to iatrogenic interventions22. Claramonte Nieto M, Meler Barrabes E, Garcia Martínez S, Gutiérrez Prat M, Serra Zantop B. Impact of aging on obstetric outcomes: defining advanced maternal age in Barcelona. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):342. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2415-3
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-019-2415-...
. Furthermore, even without scientific evidence, pregnancy in AMA women is culturally considered as risky. A study conducted in Iceland, including only low-risk nulliparous women, found an association between prelabor cesarean section and AMA2626. Einarsdóttir K, Bogadóttir HÝ, Bjarnadóttir RI, Steingrímsdóttir Þ. The effect of maternal age on obstetric interventions in a low-risk population. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2018;63(5):526-31. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.12888
https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.12888...
.

When analyzing exclusively AMA women, regardless of the type of financing of childbirth, the variables most strongly associated with prelabor cesarean section were: the preference of the woman for cesarean section at the beginning of pregnancy, prenatal and childbirth care provided by the same physician, nulliparity, and previous cesarean section. It is plausible that these variables are not related to any clinical indication. Rather, that they are related to cultural and personal factors and the organization of healthcare services, which compel women to have cesarean sections even if they have a regular-risk pregnancy1313. Mariani GL, Vain NE. The rising incidence and impact of non-medically indicated pre-labour cesarean section in Latin America. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2019;24(1):11-7. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.siny.2018.09.002
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.siny.2018.09.0...
.

Studies suggest that AMA women are influenced by a lowered treatment threshold for interventions, impacting the choices made by women, because affect their confidence regarding their own abilities to give birth without interventions88. Rydahl E, Declercq E, Juhl M, Maimburg RD. Cesarean section on a rise -- Does advanced maternal age explain the increase? A population register-based study. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210655. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210655
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.021...
,2727. Bayrampour H, Heaman M. Comparison of demographic and obstetric characteristics of Canadian primiparous women of advanced maternal age and younger age. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2011;33(8):820-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1701-2163(16)34985-4
https://doi.org/10.1016/S1701-2163(16)34...
. A Canadian study with 1,865 women found AMA women (35 years and older) were twice as likely to request cesarean section from their care provider during their pregnancy (OR = 1.91; 95%CI: 1.07 to 3.41) compared to women aged 25–29 years2727. Bayrampour H, Heaman M. Comparison of demographic and obstetric characteristics of Canadian primiparous women of advanced maternal age and younger age. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2011;33(8):820-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1701-2163(16)34985-4
https://doi.org/10.1016/S1701-2163(16)34...
.

Although most clinical guidelines allow vaginal birth after cesarean in women with previous cesarean sections, the elective repeated cesarean section is often performed by choice of the women and/or the provider2828. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 205 Summary: vaginal birth after cesarean delivery. Obstet Gynecol. 2019;133(2):393-5.. A population-based study in Brazil has shown that even in low-risk women who are eligible for trial of labor after cesarean section, the repetitive cesarean rate is high in the country. This is probably a result of non-clinical reasons2929. Nakamura-Pereira M, Esteves-Pereira AP, Gama SGN, Leal M. Elective repeat cesarean delivery in women eligible for trial of labor in Brazil. Int J Gynecol Obstet. 2018;143(3):351-9. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijgo.12660
https://doi.org/10.1002/ijgo.12660...
.

Only women with clinical and obstetric indication should receive this type of surgery in order to avoid maternal and neonatal complication. As a result, obstetric risk should be the main determining factor for performing prelabor cesarean section3030. Betran AP, Torloni MR, Zhang JJ, Gülmezoglu AM; WHO Working Group on Cesarean Section. WHO Statement on Cesarean Section Rates. BJOG. 2016;123(5):667-70. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.13526
https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.13526...
. However, this association was found only in public health care service. This shows that non-obstetric factors have been instrumental for performing prelabor cesarean sections in private health care services.

The failure to adopt protocols established by obstetric health teams generates the misconception that cesarean sections are more advantageous for the infant1414. Betrán AP, Temmerman M, Kingdon C, Mohiddin A, Opiyo N, Torloni MR, et al. Interventions to reduce unnecessary cesarean sections in healthy women and babies. Lancet. 2018;392(10155):1358-68. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31927-5
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31...
, especially for advanced maternal age women. The scenario could be changed if scientific evidence indicating greater chance of neonatal complications when a cesarean section occurs before 39 weeks prior to the onset of labor was considered when devising public policy1212. Leal MC, Esteves-Pereira AP, Nakamura-Pereira M, Domingues RMSM, Dias MAB, Moreira ME, et al. Burden of early-term birth on adverse infant outcomes: a population-based cohort study in Brazil. BMJ Open. 2017;7(12):e017789. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017789
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017...
. Professionals responsible for prenatal care must explain to women the risks of unnecessary surgery and the advantages of vaginal birth. Women have attested the great influence of the physician who assists them in their decision regarding the type of birth1414. Betrán AP, Temmerman M, Kingdon C, Mohiddin A, Opiyo N, Torloni MR, et al. Interventions to reduce unnecessary cesarean sections in healthy women and babies. Lancet. 2018;392(10155):1358-68. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31927-5
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31...
.

Therefore, one of this study strengths is its analysis of prelabor cesarean sections (focusing on antepartum clinical indications and intrapartum indication for labor dystocia). Most existing studies address only the relationship between AMA and cesarean sections, focusing mainly on clinical indications. Besides maternal age, this study analyzes women’s preference and the mode of financing the childbirth. It also considers the heterogeneous distribution of the type of labor in different health services, drawing on a representative sample from Brazil. On the other hand, the limitation of not having the variable “conception by in vitro fertilization” in order to analyze its association with the outcome is highlighted, although it is still not prevalent in Brazil, as it is not part of the procedures covered by the public sector or by health care plans, thereby being restricted to high-end private clinics.

CONCLUSIONS

Prelabor cesarean section presents a complex scenario, especially for advanced maternal age women. It comprises not only clinical, cultural, social, organizational, and economic issues, but also the effect of maternal age on the type of childbirth. Therefore, the approach to AMA pregnancies should be multifaceted. This study advocates the application of both clinical (evaluation of vaginal birth after cesarean section, induction of labor) and non-clinical approaches (empowerment of pregnant women regarding the safer and healthier type of childbirth both for her and the baby, debunking mistaken beliefs, teamwork rather than individual work, face-to-face dialogues between pregnant women and health professionals about the lower chance of complications involved in vaginal birth). The risk of late pregnancy should be made clear to women who consider becoming pregnant at a later stage in life.

In the public health care service, women with advanced maternal age were influenced by clinical criteria in the choice of prelabor cesarean section. Whereas in private health care services, the organizational criteria stood out as key factors influencing women’s choices. Measures that stimulate vaginal birth should be adopted, especially in private health care services in order to reduce the high number of unnecessary cesarean sections. A change of attitude by health practitioners is also considered a necessary step to improve maternal health care for advanced maternal age women. Medical practitioners should base their actions on scientific evidence that indicates vaginal birth as the first choice. The principal aim should be lowering risks for mother and child during pregnancy and birth. Ultimately, this essay contests the claim that the organization of maternal healthcare services is a determinant of prelabor cesarean section. Rather, the chance of complications related to cesarean section are not properly outlined to AMA women prior to pregnancy in Brazil.

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  • Funding: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Espírito Santo (FAPES - Edital PROFIX FAPES/CAPES 10/2018 - Postdoctoral grant - Process: 83552936).

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    14 Apr 2021
  • Date of issue
    2021

History

  • Received
    6 Apr 2020
  • Accepted
    8 July 2020
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