A new survey of 22 maternity units has found big variations in the rates of Caesarean section, induced birth and other procedures.

On average nationally, over 30% of first-time mothers undergo a Caesarean section.

74,000 babies are born here each year, usually in one of the 22 maternity units around the country.

This survey reveals major variations in the various procedures.

At St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, over 43% of first-time mothers have a Caesarean section birth. The lowest rate is seen at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street in Dublin, where just over 22% of first-time mothers have Caesarean sections.

Niamh Healy, co-author of the guide, said the results illustrate a real lack of standardisation across maternity services with some hospitals having almost double the rates of others.

The highest rate of induced labour is seen at the Coombe Women and Infants' University Hospital in Dublin, where close to 37% of first-time mothers are induced.

On average, instruments such as forceps are used to assist birth in over 28% of first-time mothers, however some hospitals have rates of over 33%.

Nationally, over 63% of hospitals initiated breastfeeding within one hour of birth. The hospital with the best performance in this regard was University College Hospital Galway, where breastfeeding was started in over 69% of first-time mothers straight after birth.

The survey involved all maternity units, however some could not provide data on all questions posed.