Nearly one in three babies delivered by C-section after 154pc rise in 25 years
Caesarean sections have soared in Ireland's two biggest maternity hospitals by 154pc over the last 25 years.
In Dublin, the number of mothers opting for C-sections rose faster than their German and US counterparts, new figures from an international study reveal. This is partially due to a sharp increase in women having successive C-sections.
The number of mothers in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital and the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street having repeat C-sections has risen, with only one in three opting for a natural birth after a C-section with their first baby.
Nearly one in three babies in Ireland is delivered by Caesarean section - and around half of those are planned procedures.
Professor Michael Turner, UCD Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Coombe, said the increased likelihood of successive C-sections among mothers was expected to continue to drive rates up.
"This is going to push up our Caesarean section rate in years to come. There is no sign that our Caesarean section rate has plateaued," said Professor Turner, one of the authors of the study.
"The overall rate is heading to about one in three women having a Caesarean section. About half of them are [elective]. The risks of complications are higher than they are with a vaginal birth. It also has long-term implications in that you've had major surgery and it complicates the risk of any future abdominal surgery.
"The main concern is the human cost, the cost to women in that they are having more and more major operations."
The leading obstetrician said there is also a financial cost as women have much longer stays in hospital after the procedure.
"Sometimes if you've had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you can often be discharged within 24 hours, whereas with an elective Caesarean section the women stay in for about five days," he said.
The study, carried out by the ERSI and UCD Centre for Human Reproduction, at the Coombe, compared the rates of C-section increases in Hesse, in Germany, which has a similar population to Dublin, and Massachusetts, which has a similar number of births per year as Ireland.
The rates of C-sections in all three locations rose during the 25-year period from 1990 until the end of 2014.
But Dublin's rate of increase was 154pc, which was more than triple the 43pc rate of increase in the US state and higher than the 105pc increase in the German state.
"The findings are likely to be similar in the other 17 maternity units in Ireland," said Professor Turner.