Older mothers, obesity and a fear of childbirth are driving record numbers of caesareans, according to experts.
Last year almost 28 per cent of women who gave birth had a caesarean, a three-fold rise since the 1980s.
This included 12 per cent who had a planned caesarean – one in eight – the remainder had one as an emergency.
The figures from NHS Digital are the highest since records began in 1980.
They also show that only half of women who gave birth last year went into labour naturally, 55 per cent.
The remainder were either induced as doctors were worried they were late or had a planned caesarean.
Doctors said the trend was due to the rise in older and obese mothers who tend to have more complex labours.
Many of these women are advised to have planned caesareans to avoid life-threatening complications during the delivery.
But the figures also reflect the fact that rising numbers of women are choosing to have caesareans because they are so scared of having a natural childbirth.
Some had terrifying ordeals with their first baby and were in labour for several days on overcrowded maternity units.
Denise Van Outen was so affected by the traumatic experiences of her family and friends that she decided not to risk a natural birth.
The actress and presenter, 43, chose to have a caesarean with her daughter Betsy, now seven, whom she raises with ex-husband Lee Mead.
‘My sister had two very traumatic births that ended in an emergency C-section and it put the fear of God in me,’ she said. ‘And when I got pregnant, I was so stressed.
‘I went for an elective caesarean because my mum almost died giving birth, I saw what my sister went through and I was so scared.’
Her best friend was also rushed to hospital after complications in a home birth.
On ITV’s Loose Women show in August, Miss Van Outen also told how she still felt guilty for not trying for a natural birth.
In 2011 the health watchdog Nice acknowledged this fear and issued new guidelines stating hospitals were obliged to offer these women caesareans.
Shortly before this guidance was introduced some hospitals were reporting a 40 per cent increase in the numbers of women asking for the procedure in one year.
Edward Morris, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: ‘These figures reflect the increasing number of complex births due to rising maternal age and obesity, together with more women with pre-existing medical conditions having babies.
‘Together these factors increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and a more complicated labour, resulting in medical interventions such as the need for planned or emergency caesarean sections, instrumental vaginal deliveries and induced labours.’
The figures show that 12.1 per cent of women had a planned or ‘elective’ caesarean in 2016/17, up from 11.5 per cent in 2015/17 .
In 2006/7 the proportion was 9.5 per cent and in 1980 just 4 per cent.
Only 55 per cent of women in 2016/17 went into labour spontaneously, the remainder had caesareans, were induced or there was no data.
The National Childbirth Trust, (NCT), the UK’s largest parenting charity, said women were being induced too quickly when they could have waited.
Women are normally induced if they go beyond two weeks past their due date although it varies between hospitals.
Abi Wood, from the NCT, said: ‘While it can feel frustrating to go past a due date, this is only an estimated time.
‘Pregnant women can always talk to their midwives about options including the risks and benefits to them and their babies of inductions, caesareans and waiting longer for spontaneous labour.’
There will be a lot of people in the operating room.
The anaesthetic (usually a single needle in the back that works within 5 to 10 minutes) can drop your blood pressure, give you “the shakes” and you can feel sick – not good when you are lying flat on your back.
You feel movement, and in a small number of women the block is incomplete, that is, uyou feel pain or sharp tugging and have to be put to sleep.
The recovery time is longer than a vaginal birth (a few more days,) and you have to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours afterwards compared to six hours after a vaginal delivery.
The scar is numb for many months but does eventually heal completely so you are unaware of it.
In a planned (elective) situation, you have more control over events.
You know the date in advance and can plan.
They are quick (usually less than 45 minutes in total) and most doctors let you see the baby being delivered and take pictures.
Your scar is neat and in a part of your body that you don’t use much.
You have pain relief for the delivery and afterwards.
You don’t have trauma to your vagina (birth canal) and thus sex will feel the same afterwards.
At least 10 per cent of women who have a vaginal delivery will have some form of damage to bowel and bladder function, which may take many years to become evident.