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Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Big rise in Caesarean births
Newborn baby
One in five births in the UK are Caesarean
The number of women giving birth by Caesarian births has increased dramatically in recent years, an official study is set to confirm.

The first national study into Caesarean sections in the UK is discovering that the surgical procedure is now used in one in five births.

In 1980, just 9% of births involved a Caesarian and the World Health Organisation recommends that the procedure is used in 10% to 15% of all births.

The study, carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on behalf of the Department of Health, involves an audit of every maternity unit in England and Wales over a three-month period between May and July of this year.

The study, which is half-completed, aims to produce clear figures on the number of Caesarian sections being carried out on the NHS and to provide an explanation for the increase.

There are fears that many women are choosing to have Caesarean sections so that the time of delivery can be more accurately planned.

Some women also believe, that it is better to avoid a possibly prolonged labour, and the ongoing discomfort of damage caused by the birthing process by having a planned operation instead.

The rate of Caesarian sections is far too high

The National Childbirth Trust

But doctors have warned that while it may be medically necessary to perform a Caesarean in certain circumstances, it is a major operation and carries risks for both mother and child.

Women who undergo Caesareans also take longer to recover than those who give birth naturally. They may be more prone to bleeding, and even to infertility.

Research has also shown that babies born by Caesarean section tend to be at an increased risk for breathing difficulties than their vaginally born counterparts.


The increase in Caesarean sections is also worrying ministers.

Every operation costs the NHS up to 1,000 more than a traditional delivery and the annual cost is estimated to be in the region of 80m.

A spokesman for the National Childbirth Trust, which is a charity for parents, said too many women were undergoing the procedure.

"The rate of Caesarian sections is far too high. In some regions it is running twice the World Health Organisation's recommended level for developed countries."

He added: "We are not against Caesarian sections per se. Obviously there are cases where the operation is clinically necessary. However, that does not appear to be the case for many women.

"We want to know what the reasons for the increase are. All our information to date has been anecdotal and this audit is all about finding the numbers in each maternity unit and finding out why the numbers are rising."

According to the Department of Health the full report into Caesarian births will be published next year.

She added: "Caesarian rates appear to be rising and that is why we have asked the Royal College to look into this."

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02 May 00 | Health
Crackdown on Caesarean boom
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