labor & delivery

Caesarean delivery

What is a Caesarean delivery? Why is it needed?

Caesarean delivery is a surgical procedure that makes an incision in your abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. If your doctor recommends a Caesarean delivery, make sure you understand why the doctor thinks this is the best option for you and your baby.

A Caesarean delivery takes longer and has more risk than a vaginal delivery

  • The incision is horizontal and made just above your pubic bone
  • It's often called a "bikini cut" because it's small enough and low enough to be covered by a bikini later
  • Sometimes an up and down cut is done if the Caesarean is an emergency procedure

Caesareans are done when:

  • The baby is in distress and needs to be delivered right away
  • Labor doesn't progress as it should
  • Vaginal delivery is too risky for the mother or the baby

Some Caesareans are planned even before labor begins. This may happen if the doctor knows the baby is not in the right position for a vaginal delivery.

If you are scheduled to deliver before 39 weeks gestational age, be sure to talk to your physician about the risk and benefits to both you and your baby. Research has shown that babies born before 39 weeks gestational age without a medical reason for early delivery are at an increased risk of complications. Common complications include breathing problems, low blood sugar and the need for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Check out the March of Dimes article: Why the Last Weeks of Pregnancy Count, and view Dr. Sandy Cohen as he talks about potential health issues for babies delivered prior to 39 weeks via elective caesarean. Watch Video

Vaginal birth after Caesarean
Many times it's possible to have a vaginal birth for a later baby even if you had a Caesarean for the first birth. Talk to your doctor to find out if a vaginal birth after Caesarean is an option for you.

Your doctor may suggest a c-section when a vaginal birth isn't possible or safe for you or your baby. Many situations can warrant a c-section, and nearly one in four babies in the United States is delivered this way.

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