Disparities by race/ethnicity in unplanned cesarean birth among healthy nulliparas: a secondary analysis of the nuMoM2b dataset

Nicole S. Carlson, Madelyn S. Carlson, Elise N. Erickson, Melinda Higgins, Abby J. Britt, Alexis Dunn Amore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Racial disparities exist in maternal morbidity and mortality, with most of these events occurring in healthy pregnant people. A known driver of these outcomes is unplanned cesarean birth. Less understood is to what extent maternal presenting race/ethnicity is associated with unplanned cesarean birth in healthy laboring people, and if there are differences by race/ethnicity in intrapartum decision-making prior to cesarean birth. Methods: This secondary analysis of the Nulliparous Pregnancy Outcomes Study: Monitoring Mothers-to-Be (nuMoM2b) dataset involved nulliparas with no significant health complications at pregnancy onset who had a trial of labor at ≥ 37 weeks with a singleton, non-anomalous fetus in cephalic presentation (N = 5,095). Logistic regression models were used to examine associations between participant-identified presenting race/ethnicity and unplanned cesarean birth. Participant-identified presenting race/ethnicity was used to capture the influence of racism on participant’s healthcare experiences. Results: Unplanned cesarean birth occurred in 19.6% of labors. Rates were significantly higher among Black- (24.1%) and Hispanic- (24.7%) compared to white-presenting participants (17.4%). In adjusted models, white participants had 0.57 (97.5% CI [0.45–0.73], p < 0.001) lower odds of unplanned cesarean birth compared to Black-presenting participants, while Hispanic-presenting had similar odds as Black-presenting people. The primary indication for cesarean birth among Black- and Hispanic- compared to white-presenting people was non-reassuring fetal heart rate in the setting of spontaneous labor onset. Conclusions: Among healthy nulliparas with a trial of labor, white-presenting compared to Black or Hispanic-presenting race/ethnicity was associated with decreased odds of unplanned cesarean birth, even after adjustment for pertinent clinical factors. Future research and interventions should consider how healthcare providers’ perception of maternal race/ethnicity may bias care decisions, leading to increased use of surgical birth in low-risk laboring people and racial disparities in birth outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number342
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Cesarean section
  • Ethnicity
  • Labor
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Disparities by race/ethnicity in unplanned cesarean birth among healthy nulliparas: a secondary analysis of the nuMoM2b dataset'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this