NHS hospitals in Greater Manchester will no longer let women have elective caesareans, meaning that women who choose to have a caesarean birth must seek private maternity services, it has emerged.
Hospital chiefs are concerned by the number of women having caesareans out of choice because the procedures cost around twice as much as a natural birth.
Trusts in Greater Manchester have therefore taken the decision to ration the procedures so that only certain women - such as those who have already had two such operations - are eligible.
However, the move has been condemned by top obstetricians including Dr Christoph Lees, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge.
He told the Times: "I strongly disagree with this prescriptive condition setting. Sometimes well-informed women, often older and very unlikely to have further children, do request caesarean sections and it is unreasonable to refuse if they are fully informed."
A spokesman for NHS Manchester told the newspaper that in cases where a caesarean section is likely to be safer for mother or baby, women will still be able to choose how their baby is delivered.
Around one in five babies born in the UK is delivered by caesarean section, according to the NHS Choices website.