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A quarter of pregnant women have a caesarean

Midwives concerned by latest figures which show a small rise in c-sections in England
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
female doctor consulting female pregnant patient

7th December 2012 - New figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show a slight increase in the number of caesareans performed in NHS hospitals in England in 2011/12.

The overall caesarean rate was 25% per cent, compared to 24.8% in the previous year and 24.2% in 2006/07.

The highest proportion of caesareans were performed in London at 28.5% while the lowest was in Yorkshire and the Humber at 22.6%.

Breakdown of statistics

In its report, 'NHS Maternity Statistics, England: 2011/12', the HSCIC presents facts and figures about NHS hospital deliveries, everything from gestation and delivery type to complications and birth weight.

In 2011/12 just over one in three mothers aged 35 and over had a caesarean compared to one in four women aged 25 to 34 and just under one in six of women aged under 25. The HSCIC says these rates have changed little in recent years.

Just under one in five of women aged 35 and over had an elective caesarean compared to one in 10 women aged 25 to 34 and one in 20 of under 25s.

The percentage of instrumental deliveries increased by 0.4 percentage points to 13% from 2010/11.

The number of hospital deliveries to teenage mothers fell by a fifth in five years. Apart from women aged 19 and under, deliveries increased for women in all age groups, with the biggest percentage rise among those aged 40 to 49 - their numbers were up 15.6% from 22,200 to 25,600.

Baby boom

Commenting on the maternity statistics, Louise Silverton, the Royal College of Midwives’ director for midwifery, said: "We are concerned by the increase in the caesarean rate, which has increased to 25%. That means that one in four women giving birth is having a caesarean, which is a major surgical procedure. There has also been a rise in the number of elective caesareans, while the number of emergency caesareans has remained stable. Questions must be asked as to what the driver is behind this increase in elective surgery.

"The instrumental delivery rate has also increased to 13%, with a rise in the forceps assisted birth rate to 6.5%, thus continuing the trend of increasing instrumental rates for delivery. An increase in caesarean rates and instrumental deliveries often reflects a decrease in involvement with midwives and this concerns me.

"This data also shows that the age profile of pregnant women is getting older. The baby boom, combined with the increasing age of mothers, means greater demands on maternity services, as pregnancies for older women can give rise to increased complications and a need for medical interventions, which demands more of midwives and others in the maternity team. As we are in the midst of a baby boom, these factors together with the increasing social complexity of care needs for all mothers, have a dramatic effect on the workload heaped on already overstretched midwives."

Reviewed on December 07, 2012

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