Celebs — as usual on the leading edge — are rumored to be at the forefront of a growing movement among new moms: pre-scheduled, elective Caesarean sections (search).
Some have accused stars such as Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, Claudia Schiffer, Elizabeth Hurley and Madonna of endangering their babies for vanity by choosing early C-sections over old-fashioned childbirth in order to avoid abdominal stretching.
“There has been a spike in these designer C-sections in England and Scotland,” said syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. “[Celebrities] put themselves and their unborn children at risk to avoid stretch marks.”
Tabloids have nicknamed the movement "Too Posh to Push," after former Spice Girl Beckham. The British beauty, like all of the accused stars who commented in various reports, claimed she had her C-sections under doctors’ orders.
But there's been persistent speculation on the subject recently. "There have always been rumors that some celebrities, in their desire to keep a streamlined form, push for an early C-section as a way to avoid the final month of major abdominal stretching," wrote Anne Marie Owens (search) in an article in The National Post earlier this year that was reprinted in several newspapers.
In spite of the controversy, many doctors say C-sections — often perceived as a last-resort way to bring a child into the world — may be preferable to vaginal delivery.
“If you want to look at what is the absolute safest [way to give birth], C-section without labor on an elective schedule basis avoids all possible issues," said Scott Serden, clinical chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, where many celebrities, including Madonna, have given birth.
"There are studies out of England showing a lower incidence of neurological trauma with elective surgery as opposed to those who go through labor. And it’s nicer and safer for the mother to give birth on a pre-scheduled basis, as opposed to at 3 a.m."
Serden added that he hasn't heard of patients giving birth early to avoid stretch marks, but confirmed that the hospital performs elective C-sections, and not only on celebs.
“More women are choosing not to go through the labor process, to avoid issues with vaginal delivery and the possible long process of labor induction,” he said.
Dr. Yehudi Gordon, who delivered model Kate Moss’ baby and is called the “ob-gyn to the stars” in London, told Foxnews.com that he has not discussed performing these procedures for cosmetic reasons with any of his patients.
The number of women having C-sections has been on the rise, and in 2001, the most recent year for which stats are available, 24.4 percent of births in the United States were Caesareans, the highest rate in 13 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (search) says deliveries should not be performed prior to 39 weeks without a medical reason. After 39 weeks, women are usually all clear for a C-section, but Serden said there's no point doing it for cosmetic reasons.
"If the abdominal walls are going to stretch, by this point they already have," he said.
But Dr. Marciana Wilkerson, an ob-gyn at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., said C-sections can prevent stretch marks that appear in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
"Two weeks can make all the difference," said Wilkerson, who added that she got stretch marks in the last two weeks of her term.
But if A-listers are giving birth a month early, that could endanger the health of the baby.
"Before two weeks, if it's just for social and not medical reasons, you put your child at risk unnecessarily," said Wilkerson.
And C-sections are not without risks. According to childbirth.org, risks to the mother include infection, increased blood loss, respiratory complications and a longer hospital stay and recovery time. Risks to the baby include premature birth, breathing problems and fetal injury.
For women concerned with sexy stomachs, old-fashioned pushing avoids scarring, whereas C-sections, which involve a surgical incision through the abdominal wall and uterus, do not.
Scars, however, can be cleaned up with plastic surgery.
Regardless, Malkin said six-pack abs should be the last thing on a woman's mind when she's giving birth.
“When you make a decision to have a child, it's a sacrifice. If they are not willing, they shouldn’t have children,” she said.