How to Prevent Unnecessary Cesarean Birth
Cesarean birth, or cesarean delivery, is the surgical delivery of a baby through an incision in the abdomen and the uterus. This may be referred to as a C-section.
This procedure may be scheduled ahead of time, or it may be done in an emergency situation. A C-section is major abdominal surgery. You could have a higher risk for complications from a C-section than you would with a vaginal delivery.
Sometimes, having a C-section is necessary for your health or your baby’s health. In other cases, a C-section is done even though a vaginal delivery is possible. In some of these cases, a C-section may not be necessary.
When is a cesarean birth needed?
You may need a C-section if:
- You are having twins or other multiples and you have gone into labor too early, or your babies are not in a good position for vaginal birth.
- Your labor is not progressing. This means that the opening of your uterus (cervix) is not becoming wide enough to allow your baby to pass through your vagina.
- Your baby needs to be delivered quickly because there are signs of distress or other complications.
- You have a problem with the organ that nourishes your baby (placenta).
- Your baby is too large to pass through your birth canal.
- Your baby is coming out bottom first (breech birth) instead of head first.
- You have an infection that can pass to your baby during vaginal birth.
- You are not a good candidate to try labor after having had a prior C-section.
If you have health concerns during your pregnancy or if you have had a C-section before, discuss your risk of having a C-section with your health care provider.
What are the risks of an unnecessary cesarean birth?
Risks of a C-section include:
- Blood clots that form in your legs or pelvis and travel to your lungs.
- Injury to your bladder or bowel.
- Reaction to medicines.
- Needing to have a C-section for future deliveries.
You may be able to avoid the risks of having a C-section if you can deliver vaginally. An unnecessary C-section can also be a risk for your baby. The last few weeks of pregnancy are an important time for your baby to develop fully. Having a C-section too early may increase your baby’s risk of:
- Breathing problems.
- Poor feeding.
- Delayed bonding with you through skin-to-skin contact after birth.
What can I do to lower my risk of an unnecessary cesarean birth ?
To lower your risk of having an unnecessary C-section:
- Talk with your health care provider about having a C-section. You can tell your health care provider that you do not want to have a C-section unless it is absolutely necessary. Having a certain condition does not mean that you will need to have a C-section.
- Ask what your health care provider’s C-section rate is, and the C-section rate at the hospital where you will deliver. This is a percentage of first time pregnancies that deliver with a C-section. A lower number is better.
- Do not have a C-section for convenience, especially before 39 weeks. A C-section should only be performed if there is a medical reason for it.
- Do not have a C-section unless your health care provider determines that you or your baby are at higher risk for harm or injury during labor or vaginal delivery.
- Avoid gaining more than the recommended weight during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about how much weight gain is healthy for you.
- Try to be as physically fit as you can before going into labor.
- Take birthing classes to prepare for labor and delivery. Have someone to support you through labor and delivery.
Where can I get more support?
For more support, consider:
- Talking with your health care provider.
- Joining a support group.
- Talking to friends or family members who have had a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC).
Seek Additional Information
Learn more about C-sections from:
- March of Dimes Foundation: www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/having-a-c-section.aspx
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq006.pdf
- International Cesarean Awareness Network: www.ican-online.org
- A C-section is a surgical procedure to deliver your baby.
- In some cases, C-sections are done when they are not necessary. Having a C-section when you do not need one can put you at risk for complications that you would not have with vaginal delivery.
- Talk with your health care provider about ways to avoid having an unnecessary C-section.