Number of babies born through C-section double globally since 2000

A pregnant women at a doctors office

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The South Asia region has seen the most rapid increase in use (6.1 per cent per year), with C-section being underused in 2000 but being overused by 2015 (increasing from 7.2 per cent of births via C-section to 18.1 per cent).

The Series tracks trends in C-section use globally and in nine regions based on data from 169 countries from World Health Organization and UNICEF databases.

Some of the possible risks associated with c-sections may include bleeding, blood clots, surgical injuries to the mother's organs, infection, injury to the child, increased risks in future pregnancies, adverse reactions to medications, and breathing problems for the child especially when born before 39 weeks of pregnancy.

The global study, which involved several United Kingdom universities, is being presented at the worldwide Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) World Congress in Brazil, where the authors are calling on healthcare professionals, hospitals, women and their families to only intervene with a C-section when it is medically required. In 2015, 44.3% of live births in Latin America and the Caribbean were completed by C-section, up from 32.3% in 2000, followed by 32% in North America, up from 24.3%.

In at least 15 countries, more than 40 percent of births were performed using a C-section, with the Dominican Republic topping the list with 58.1 percent of all babies delivered using the procedure.

Globally, C-section use has increased by 3.7 per cent each year between 2000-2015 - rising from 12 per cent of live births (16 million of 131.9 million) in 2000, to 21 per cent of live births (29.7 million of 140.6 million) in 2015, researchers said.

It is estimated that the operation - a vital surgical procedure when complications occur during birth - is necessary 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the time.

C-sections are crucial when complications arise during birth, like bleeding, foetal distress and abnormal foetal positioning. However, the trends reveal that more and more childbirths are being done via c-section, regardless of whether it is necessary or not.

C-section continues to be over used in North America, Western Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean, where rates rose by around 2 percent a year between 2000 and 2015 to 32 percent, nearly 27 percent and more than 44 percent respectively.

They said it was important for women and healthcare workers to understand the "small but serious risks" associated with C-sections, and ensure they were used in cases medical need.

Jane Sandall, professor of social science and women's health at King's College London and a study author, said that there were a variety of reasons women were increasingly opting for surgery.

The study urges healthcare professionals, women and their families to only choose a Caesarean when it is needed for medical reasons - and for more education and training to be offered to dispel some of the concerns surrounding childbirth. In places such as Brazil and China, numerous c-sections performed were in women with low-risk pregnancies, in women who previously had c-sections, and in women who were well-educated.

In a comment accompanying the study, Gerard Visser of the University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, called the rise in C-sections 'alarming'.

Part of this trend is being driven by income and access to health facilities.

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