- NHS data showed the number of births is at its lowest level in more than 20 years
- Of 547,244 births in 2022-23, a total of 17.4 per cent were by elective C-section
Nearly one in five babies last year were delivered by either planned or emergency Caesarean section, with experts suggesting the trend could be due to obesity or women waiting till they are older to fall pregnant.
Data published by NHS England also showed the number of births is at its lowest level in more than 20 years.
Of the 547,244 births in 2022-23, a total of 17.4 per cent were by elective Caesarean section, a planned procedure usually carried out around the 39th week of pregnancy.
This is up from 15.9 per cent of the 578,562 births recorded in the previous 12 months.
The proportion of emergency C-sections – when a vaginal birth may be deemed too risky – also rose from 20.1 to 21.9 per cent.
Nearly one in five babies last year were delivered by either planned or emergency Caesarean section
Experts suggesting the trend could be due to obesity or women waiting till they are older to fall pregnant (Stock image)
The statistics suggest a long-term upwards trend in emergency C-sections in England.
A total of 671,255 babies were born a decade ago in 2012-13, with 14.8 per cent, or around one in seven, delivered via emergency Caesarean.
The proportions of both elective and emergency procedures in 2022-23 are the highest since 1980, when NHS England began recording the data.
On the NHS, mothers can request a C-section even if there are no medical reasons for it. Mums who do so are sometimes labelled ‘too posh to push’.
Advantages include being able to schedule the time and place of the birth, rather than allowing nature to take its course at any time of the day or night.
However C-sections carry the risk of complications including blood clots, excessive bleeding, damage to neighbouring areas such as the bladder or tubes connecting the kidney and bladder, and accidentally cutting the baby when the womb is opened. It will also leave a scar.
Dr Laura Hipple, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘Over recent years there has been a gradual increase in the number of Caesareans.
‘A major factor is the growing number of complex births. We are seeing rising rates of obesity and people choosing to have children at a later stage in their life, both of which can increase the chance of complications.
‘An emergency or unplanned Caesarean birth may happen when there are serious concerns about the wellbeing of the woman and/or the baby, or when the labour is not progressing as expected. In these circumstances, a Caesarean birth can be a life-saving procedure.’
The Office for National Statistics says that in 2021 the average age of women who gave birth in England and Wales was 30.9 years.
In May, statistics from the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities showed 25.9 per cent of people over 18 in England in 2021 to 2022 were obese. The figures were 26.1 per cent for women and 25.8 per cent for men.
The number of births last year was down from the 578,562 in the previous 12 months. It was the lowest level since 541,700 births were recorded in 2001-02.
Justine Roberts, founder of parents’ website Mumsnet, said: ‘Whether or not to have children is a deeply personal decision, often influenced by financial factors.
‘As the cost-of-living crisis continues, we hear from increasing numbers of Mumsnet users who worry that they can’t afford to have kids.
‘Given sky-high childcare costs, a housing crisis and ever increasing food and fuel bills – not to mention a stubborn gender pay gap that’s exacerbated by motherhood – it’s not really surprising that the birth rate is falling.’