Caesarean deliveries can damage mothers’ long-term health, a study has found.
Those who have a surgical delivery have a much higher risk of experiencing dangerous problems with the placenta in later pregnancies, according to researchers.
They are 47 per cent more likely to develop placenta praevia, where the placenta covers the cervix, and 40 per cent more likely to suffer a placental abruption, where it detaches from the womb before the baby is born. Both of these conditions can prove fatal for the mother or baby, or both.
Previous studies have shown caesarean sections increase the chance the baby will suffer from breathing difficulties, while mothers often find it harder to bond with their babies while recovering from what amounts to a major operation.
The Canadian study examined the risk of complications in second pregnancies after a surgical delivery in the first.
Mothers who had multiple births were excluded and researchers examined statistics relating to more than five million women between 1995 to 2000.
Dr Qiuying Yang, of Ottawa University, said: ‘Our paper shows an important association between caesarean sections and the subsequent pregnancy complications of placenta praevia and placental abruption.
‘More than one per cent of pregnancies with a prior caesarean section had one of these events. This has important implications on the management of these pregnancies.
‘It also introduces new and important evidence in the debate on the risks of caesarean sections on demand.’
The research was published in birth the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The journal’s editor-in-chief, Professor Philip Steer, said: ‘The caesarean section rate in the UK is one of the highest in the world.
‘This isn’t because, in some cases, women are “too posh to push”, but rather because complications occur during the pregnancy or birth which make normal delivery impossible.
‘Women need to be informed of the possible risks that can happen throughout the pregnancy and it is important to have their scheduled scans to detect if the baby is developing safely.
‘Should a woman encounter unusual bleeding during her pregnancy, it is best if she sees the doctor immediately.’
The latest figures show that 23 per cent of UK births - around 180,000 a year - are now by caesarean section. Britain’s rate is significantly higher than that in most other European countries.
It is also a dramatic increase over the figure ten years ago, when only one in six babies was delivered in this way.
Guidance from the World Health Organisation states ‘there is no justification for any region to have a higher caesarean rate than 10 to 15 per cent’.
The rise in caesarean sections also has cost implications, as they are usually more costly than vaginal deliveries. It has been estimated that if around 800 births without complications were conducted as normal deliveries as opposed to by c-section, the NHS would save £1million.