One in four UK babies is now delivered by caesarean section, new figures reveal as experts say women are increasingly scared of natural birth.
A major international study, published in the Lancet, shows rates of C-section delivery have increased from 19.7 per cent in 2000 to 26.2 per cent in 2015, putting Britain among the highest in Western Europe for use of the procedure.
The 33 per cent increase comes despite years of a natural birth campaign in many NHS hospitals, which still sees women occasionally denied the treatment at three-quarters of maternity units.
As well as “fear” of natural birth, Britain’s rise in caesarean use is likely to be driven by increased obesity among women of childbearing age.
However, scientists warned on Wednesday that only 10 to 15 per cent of deliveries medically require a caesarean section, meaning at least 85,00 are performed purely on the basis of preference each year.
Caesareans can be life-saving interventions for women and newborns when complications occur, such as bleeding, foetal distress, hypertensive disease, and babies in abnormal position.
They also has the advantage of being less painful, and avoiding after effects such as urinary incontinence and reduced sexual functioning.
But the procedure can lead to scarring of the womb, which heightens the risk of complications during future births, such as from bleeding, abnormal development of the placenta, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and preterm birth.