How mums with faster internet more likely to have caesarean section
Good access to broadband internet can push up rates of babies being born by caesarean section in maternity hospitals, particularly among first-time mothers.
Carol Propper, professor of economics at Imperial College London, said a study found mothers living in areas with fast internet were 1.8pc more likely to give birth by caesarean section than women with a slower online service.
"The effect is driven by first-time mothers who are 2.5pc more likely to obtain an elective caesarean section. The increase is not accompanied by changes in healthcare outcomes of mothers and newborns," she added.
Mothers with low income and less education are those more affected, according to the study in England covering the period 2000 to 2011.
But due to the internet they "progressively closed the gap with mothers with higher income and education," she told the ESRI seminar.
It is not entirely clear why there is a link, but it is likely to be linked to women looking up more health websites and also being influenced by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, who had children by caesarean section around that time. The former Spice Girl star was infamously described as "too posh to push" although she insisted it was for medical reasons.
It comes as a new global study, published in the 'Lancet' today, shows Ireland is one of the countries which has seen a spike in caesarean sections.
The rate in Ireland rose from 20.8pc in 2000 to 30.1pc in 2015. It was as low as 6.2pc in 1981. Rates are higher among women who have private health insurance to cover their maternity care.
The 'Lancet' study found that, globally, the number of babies born through caesarean section almost doubled between 2000 and 2015 - from 12pc to 21pc of all births.
The life-saving surgery is still unavailable for many women and children in low-income countries. But the procedure is overused in many middle and high-income settings, the papers at the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics World Congress showed.
It is a vital intervention for women and newborns when complications occur, such as bleeding, foetal distress, hypertensive disease, and babies in abnormal position. But the surgery is not without risk for mother and child, and is associated with complications in future births.
It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that 10-15pc of births medically require a caesarean. In at least 15 countries rates exceed 40pc.
Series lead Dr Marleen Temmerman, of Ghent University, Belgium, said: "The large increases in mostly richer settings for non-medical purposes are concerning because of the associated risks for women and children.
"We call on healthcare professionals, hospitals, funders, women and families to only intervene in this way when it is medically required."