Commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakidou, responded on Monday to a question raised by European member of parliament, Dimitris Papadakis on the high rate of caesarean sections performed in Cyprus, which tops the chart in Europe.

In her response, Kyriakidou began by stating that the commission is committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.

Kyriakidou added that the commission shares official statistics on C-sections, collected on a voluntary basis, and pointed out that there is currently no official definition of “unnecessary caesareans”. Pointing out that statistical coverage of the health care sector (private/public hospitals) differs between countries, she said comparisons should be made cautiously, taking into account the underlying sources and explanatory notes accompanying the European dataset.

In order to increase data completeness, the commissioner says she intends to issue an executive regulation on health statistics, in which the coverage of surgical procedures, such as C-sections will be streamlined as from 2023, she said.

Kyriakidou added that although the commission is aware of WHO recommendations on limiting clinical interventions to reduce unnecessary caesareans, health policy and the organisation of delivery are dictated by the member states.

The commission’s actions complement national policies, encourage cooperation, support member states in implementation and facilitate the exchange of good practice, in particular through the coordination group on health promotion, disease prevention and management of non-communicable diseases.

In the latest statistics available, Cyprus was shown to have the highest rate of C-sections among the 28 EU member states, topping the chart at 61 per cent in 2020. The WHO estimates emergency C-sections to be necessary at a rate of around 15 per cent. Due to insufficient data collection and research, it is currently unknown how many C-section surgeries performed on women in Cyprus fall into the category of emergency, planned medically indicated C-sections, and planned elective (non-medically indicated) caesareans.