Delivery by Cesarean Section

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD

surgery taking placeVaginal birth is not possible or desirable for some pregnancies. In such cases, the Cesarean Section surgical technique may be used. The "c-section", as it is known, is a surgical method of delivery where the baby is removed from the mother's body by way of an incision made in the mother's abdomen and uterus. C-sections are considered major surgery, and as such are not the preferred method of delivery when they can be safely avoided.  Situations in which a c-section may be necessary include:

  • labor that is not progressing despite attempts to stimulate contractions
  • fetal distress
  • separation of the placenta from the uterine wall
  • umbilical cord prolapse (a condition where the umbilical cord becomes compressed in the cervix, cutting off the baby's oxygen supply).

With the guidance of your doctor, you may plan in advance to have a c-section if:

  • you have had invasive uterine surgery or previous c-sections
  • you have placenta previa (a condition where the placenta blocks the birth canal).
  • the baby is breech (oriented the wrong way in the birth canal), is very large, or has an illness or abnormality that would make vaginal delivery dangerous, or if there are multiple babies
  • you are experiencing an outbreak of genital herpes or other sexually transmitted disease which would be more likely to infect your baby if you gave birth via normal vaginal delivery

As with any major surgery, there are certain risks associated with c-sections, including blood loss, infection, and difficulty with subsequent vaginal deliveries. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the c-section procedure and your personal risk of requiring one during the delivery process.



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