CIHI releases annual Canadian hospitalization data showing variation across provinces and territories

April 19, 2018  — 

Caesarean section remained the most common inpatient surgical procedure in Canadian hospitals last year, occurring more than 103,000 times. New data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that C-section rates continue to increase, while the hospital birth rate has declined.

"The CIHI data shows Caesarean section rates slightly higher than in last year's report, with a concurrent decline in the number of babies with a vacuum- or forceps-assisted vaginal birth. At 28%, this statistic places Canada in the middle of the OECD nations," said Dr. Jennifer Blake, CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. "Each hospital needs to understand the contributing factors to Caesarean sections in its population, but the ultimate goal will always be to have a healthy mother and baby."

CIHI's analysis of inpatient hospitalizations last year shows that giving birth remained the most common reason for hospitalization in Canada: more than 366,000 hospitalizations were due to childbirth in 2016–2017. The next leading reasons were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis (89,897) and acute myocardial infarction (71,909).

The hospital birth rate in Canada continued to decline, from 112 births per 10,000 population in 2007–2008 to 102 per 10,000 population in 2016–2017.

Childbirth-related measures 2007–2008 2016–2017
Rate of babies born in Canadian hospitals, per 10,000 population 112 102
Proportion of births in Canadian hospitals performed via C-section 26.7% 28.2%
Proportion of all vaginal births that included an epidural 54.2% 58.6%
Proportion of babies born small for gestational age 8.3% 9.1%
Proportion of babies born before 37 weeks gestation 7.9% 7.9%
Proportion of babies with a low birth weight (less than 2,500 g) 6.0% 6.5%

CIHI data also shows some variation at the provincial and territorial level:

  • There were 3 million acute inpatient hospitalizations in Canada with an age-adjusted average length of stay of 7.0 days; however, average length of stay ranged from 9.6 days in Manitoba and 9.0 days in Prince Edward Island to 6.2 days in Ontario and 6.3 days in the Northwest Territories.
  • The proportion of vaginal births that included an epidural ranged from 72.1% in Quebec and 60.3% in Ontario to 13.4% in the Northwest Territories and 38.1% in Yukon.
  • The total C-section rate varied from 35.3% in British Columbia and 30.3% in Newfoundland and Labrador to 18.5% in the Northwest Territories and 23.4% in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Among women having a C-section for the first time age 35 and older, the proportion varied from 31.3% in British Columbia and 29.2% in Prince Edward Island to 17.8% in the Northwest Territories and 19.6% in Saskatchewan.

"There are significant variations in childbirth indicators across Canada. For example, the total C-section rate ranges from 35.3% to 18.5% across the provinces and territories. Rates of first-time C-section by age group vary as well. The variations are even greater when examining C-section rates across Canada's health regions," said Greg Webster, CIHI's director of Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services. "CIHI data is widely used and available to inform health system decisions and policies across Canada."

Provincial and territorial breakdowns for these and other measures are now available in CIHI's Quick Stats tool by searching for "childbirth" or "hospitalization."

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada's health systems and the health of Canadians.

We provide comparable and actionable data and information that are used to accelerate improvements in health care, health system performance and population health across Canada. Our stakeholders use our broad range of health system databases, measurements and standards, together with our evidence-based reports and analyses, in their decision-making processes. We protect the privacy of Canadians by ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of the health care information we provide.  

Media contact
Riley Denver