The number of births by cesarean section is increasing. A new study published in the journal The Lancet on Thursday revealed that the rate of C-section deliveries increased from 12.1 percent of all births in 2000 to 21.1 percent of births in 2015.
Study researcher Ties Boerma, from the University of Manitoba, and colleagues, also found that C-section remains more common in certain parts of the world.
In 2015, it occurred 10 times more frequently in Latin American and Caribbean regions, where 44.3 percent of babies were delivered via C-section. In West and Central African regions, C-section was used in only 4.1 percent of births.
In 2015, 32 percent of deliveries in the United States were by C-section, marking a 7 percent increase from 23 percent in the year 2000. In the United Kingdom, 26.2 percent of births were by C-section in 2015, up from 19.7 percent in 2000.
The operation is considered an important surgical procedure when complications occur during birth. It is estimated that C-section is necessary 10 to 15 percent of the time due to complications such as bleeding, hypertension, fetal distress, or the baby being in an abnormal position.
The findings of the research, however, raise concern of C-sections being overused. Although the procedure can save lives, complications and side effects may arise in both the mother and the newborn. Women who had C-sections, for instance, are more likely to experience complications with their future pregnancies.
Earlier studies have also shown that babies born via C-section are more likely to develop asthma compared with babies who were born via normal spontaneous delivery. A 2014 study published in PLOS One also showed that babies born via C-section are about 26 percent more likely to become overweight.
"The large increases in C-section use -- mostly in richer settings for non-medical purposes -- are concerning because of the associated risks for women and children," the researchers said in the press release published by Eurekalert.
"C-sections can create complications and side effects for mothers and babies, and we call on healthcare professionals, hospitals, funders, women and families to only intervene in this way when it is medically required."
The researchers also said that while the procedure tends to be overused in many middle and high-income settings, women in low-income settings do not usually have access to what can be a life-saving procedure. The researchers said that even in low and middle-income countries, wealthy women use C-section five times higher than their poorer counterparts.
"Poor women more often deliver at home, but even if they reach a health facility, they are almost 2.5 times less likely to get C-section," Boerma told CNN.