New figures show that the number of caesarean sections performed in the UK has risen dramatically from 16 per cent in 1996 to a national average of 19 per cent.
In the US, the rate of caesareans is now 22 per cent and is a national trend.
The caesarean is mooted as a way to avoid the supposed trauma (both emotional and physical) of vaginal birth.
The reason for the rise in the UK is unclear. Factors that may be involved include lack of midwifery support during labour, and mothers apeing celebrities who plan caesareans to fit in with their schedules (Lancet, 2000; 356: 1697).
While often promoted as a safer way to deliver a baby, caesareans bring a number of largely unpublicised problems, such as increased risk of infection and decreased fertility. An editorial in the Lancet urged doctors to stem the tide of inappropriate operative deliveries (Lancet, 2000; 356: 1677-80).