You may have planned for a vaginal birth, but something changed. Your baby is in the breech position or unexpected problems started during labor, and your doctor tells you that you need a cesarean section (C-section). How should you prepare? How do you know if you’re making the right choice?
We have put together this outline highlighting some of the benefits and risks of C-sections to help you make an informed decision if your doctor asks you to consider having one. It will also help you advocate for yourself and your baby.
C-Sections: When You Should Consider One
If you search online, you’ll find plenty of advice telling you that vaginal births are safer than C-sections for women and babies. But C-sections may be vital or even life-saving in certain cases, and it’s important to know about those possibilities.
- A C-section may be the safest choice for you and your baby if:
- Your baby is sideways
- The placenta is covering the cervix
- The baby’s heart rate is not normal
- A vaginal delivery could be unsafe for either of you
C-Sections: When It Might Not Be the Best Option
Women have gone through pregnancy, labor, and delivery for thousands of years – safely, in most cases. While C-sections are safer for mothers and babies in certain high-risk situations, most women will be safer with a vaginal birth.
Even when they’re necessary, C-sections carry the same risks as any major surgery, including infection, injury, and severe bleeding. Recovery after a C-section is long and may be more difficult than with a vaginal birth. C-sections can also cause risks and complications in future pregnancies.
You can push back if your doctor recommends a C-section for any of these reasons:
- Your doctor believes the baby will be large
- Labor is slow but you and your baby are doing well
- Progress has stopped but there are no concerns with the health of you or your child
Advocating for Yourself
Talk to your doctor, your birth team, and your family and let them know that you only want a C-section if it is necessary for medical reasons. If a C-section is suggested for you, don’t be afraid to ask questions and get the answers you need to make the right choice. Some questions you may want to ask are:
- What are the benefits of a C-section in my situation?
- Could there be any problems or risks if I choose to continue with a vaginal birth?
- What are my chances for severe risks?
- Are the risks the same if I had a C-section?
- How likely am I to get injured or sick during a C-section?
The Big Takeaway
Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something that makes you uncomfortable, especially having a potentially risky surgery. Know your options, do your research in advance, and be clear about what you want.
When making such a personal decision, it’s important that you can communicate with your doctor and you feel like you’re both on the same team. Our doctor finder tool can help you find an OB/GYN who speaks your preferred language and is close to home or work. We want you to feel comfortable with your doctor and be confident that you’re making the right decisions together.
To learn more about the pros and cons of C-sections, as well as some of the realities of the surgery, visit MyBirthMatters. This helpful site was put together by the California Maternal Quality Care Collective, an organization dedicated to improving health care outcomes for mothers and infants.