The number of Australian women opting to give birth via caesarean section (C-section) has hit a record high.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data released on Friday revealed that 28.5 per cent of women giving birth for the first time in 2016 have gone through C-section, up from 25.3 per cent in 2004.
The figure was significantly higher than the 10 to 15 per cent rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Caesarean section is the use of surgery to deliver a baby whereby an incision is made through the mother's lower abdomen and the uterus opened by a second incision to deliver the baby.
While the process is often necessary when vaginal delivery would put the mother or baby at risk, it can also be performed upon request, though doing so is not recommended by WHO.
In Australia's private hospitals the rate of C-section births among first-time mothers was 38.2 per cent compared to 25.8 per cent in public hospitals, indicating that wealthy parents were more likely to go for the procedure.
In Victoria, the nation's second most populous state, 43.3 per cent of women giving birth in private hospitals went through C-section compared to 30.6 per cent of pubic patients.
Indigenous Australians were also slightly more likely to deliver by C-section than the non-indigenous population.
Bernadette White, a spokeswoman for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the data indicated that fewer doctors and patients were willing to take risks.
She said that the figures were also influenced by wider trends in society such as older mothers and growing obesity, reports Xinhua from Canberra.
"There are plenty of (caesareans) where afterwards you think probably the baby would have been ok without, but until you have done it, sometimes you don't know for sure," White told Fairfax Media.
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