Rates of caesarean section births almost doubled between 2000 and 2015 – from 12 to 21 percent worldwide - new research has found, with the life-saving surgery unavailable to many women in poor countries while often over-used in richer ones.
The research, published in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday, found that 60 percent of countries overuse C-sections and 25 percent under-use them, suggesting that recommendations for their use in cases of medical need are widely ignored.
In at least 15 countries, more than 40 percent of all babies born are delivered by C-section. The highest rate, of 58.1 percent, was in the Dominican Republic.
Experts estimate that between 10 and 15 percent of births medically require a C-section due to complications such as bleeding, foetal distress, hypertension or a baby being in an abnormal position.
While the procedure can save lives - of both mothers and newborns - it can also create complications and side effects, including higher risks for future births.
“The large increases in C-section use – mostly in richer settings for non-medical purposes – are concerning because of the associated risks for women and children,” said Marleen Temmerman, an expert from Aga Khan University in Kenya and Ghent University in Belgium who co-led the research.
She called on doctors, midwives and other health workers “to only intervene in this way when it is medically required”.
The research tracked trends in C-section use globally and in nine regions based on data from 169 countries from World Health Organization and UNICEF databases.
It found that globally, C-section use has increased by 3.7 percent a year between 2000 and 2015 – rising from 12 percent of live births in 2000, to 21 percent in 2015.