Many mothers undergo unnecessary Caesarean sections because of a lack of midwives and the inexperience of some doctors, MPs said yesterday.

In England, one in five babies is delivered by Caesarean section, compared to just 3 per cent in the 1950s. For some women, the operation is life-saving but there are concerns some choose to have a Caesarean as a "lifestyle choice".

A report by the House of Commons Health Committee called for changes to ensure the operation is carried out on the NHS only if medically or psychologically necessary.

Members said a Caesarean section involved a greater risk than a normal birth. Women who have the procedure are three times more likely to die in labour, although the risk is still small.

The report said some women had unnecessary Caesareans on the advice of doctors who lacked experience due to European limits on working hours.

And it said there was "a relationship between high rates of Caesarean section and low levels of staffing".In some maternity units there were not enough midwives so they had to care for several women at a time.