A SENIOR midwife has called for better monitoring of the number of caesarean sections taking place in Scotland.

Gillian Snith, Director of the Royal College of Midwives Scotland made the call after recent increases in the number of women undergoing the potentially dangerous operation.

She called on NHS boards to account for the decision to allow thousands of women to undergo the procedure, saying she feared it had become the 'default' option for mothers-to-be keen to avoid a natural birth.

She said it would be wrong if the rise was because the c-sections were seen as the default way to give birth.

The World Health Organisation warned recently that the operation should only be carried out for sound medical reasons and not due to patient choice.

The organisation said it can save lives, but there is also the risk of disability and even death.

There were more than 7,021 c-sections in 2012, the latest year for available figures. It represented an 80 per cent rise on the number of procedures in 1998, when the figure was 3,887.

About 12 per cent of Scottish births are by planned c-section. Reducing the number of elective operation, which cost about £1,700 each, compared to £750 for a natural birth, would allow doctors to deal with emergencies more rapidly.

Ms Smith said: "We need to know what is behind the rise in caesarean sections becuase there is a great deal of concern about it.

"I tis a major abdominal operation and it would be wrong if it's being given to woman who regard it as a default option to avoid a painful labour.

"We need to know that they are being done for the correct reasons, and I think health boards should be asked to explain the reasons for every procedure."

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it is a safe medical procedure, but as with any operation, there are risks. It stressed the need for women to read up on the pros and cons.