Bogus C-Section News?


It seems that Horton misheard the WHO.

Yesterday I blogged about the World Health Organization’s recommendations for C-section limits with the best intentions, pulling info from the BBC and Fox News. But, if the folks over at are to believed– and they make a compelling case– the WHO story is bogus.

The BBC piece, apparently inspired by a item, is titled, “Should there be a limit on Caesareans?” It claimed that WHO had rescinded their recommendation that c-sections be limited to 10-15% due to lack of “empirical evidence.” Fox ran with it.  However, the quotes used to support this headline– taken from WHO’s Monitoring Emergency Obstetric Core: A Handbook–were out of context; vital information was left out. In a nutshell, WHO hasn’t changed their position at all.

Here is the full quote from WHO’s Handbook, via

“Although WHO has recommended since 1985 that the rate not exceed 10—15% (125), thereis no empirical evidence for an optimum percentage or range of percentages, despite a growing body of research that shows a negative effect of high rates (126-128). It should be noted that the proposed upper limit of 15% is not a target to be achieved but rather a threshold not to be exceeded. Nevertheless, the rates in most developed countries and in many urban areas of lesser-developed countries are above that threshold. Ultimately, what matters most is that all women who need caesarean sections actually receive them.”

Henci Goer offered a full breakdown of the WHO position at Science and Sensibility last October! You can read it here.

I feel completely icky getting caught up in a blogosphere swirl of hype. Here I was reading the BBC, thinking, this is big! How could this not get any coverage in the US? I went to the WHO website and had no luck locating the quote. I do not have a copy of WHO’s Monitoring Emergency Obstetric Core: A Handbook. I didn’t question the BBC. I will continue to track the coverage.

photo: Alex Barth/Flickr