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What is caesarean birth?

A Cesarean birth is the birth of a baby by surgery. A cesarean birth is performed when a vaginal birth would place the baby’s or the mother’s life or health at risk.  During a cesarean birth incisions are made in the mother’s abdomen and the uterus to deliver the baby.  Some cesarean births are planned in advance while others are an emergency or unplanned cesarean because of a complication that arises during labor.  A cesarean birth may be recommended for women who have one or more of these conditions:

  • A previous cesarean birth or other surgery on the uterus
  • A macrocosmic baby
  • A breech baby
  • A placental problem such as placenta previa or placenta abruption
  • Labor that stops or is ineffective in dilating the cervix
  • A prolapsed umbilical cord
  • A problem develops during labor resulting in a slowing of the fetal heart rate
  • A maternal medical condition
  • A known condition in the fetus which makes having a vaginal birth dangerous.

Majority of women recover without any problems.  However a cesarean birth is major abdominal surgery and therefore take linger to recover from than a vaginal birth.  

Cesarean delivery, also called c-section, is surgery to deliver a baby. The baby is taken out through the mother's abdomen. Most cesarean births result in healthy babies and mothers. But c-section is major surgery and carries risks. Healing also takes longer than with vaginal birth.

Most healthy pregnant women with no risk factors for problems during labor or delivery have their babies vaginally. Still, the cesarean birth rate in the United States has risen greatly in recent decades. Today, nearly 1 in 3 women have babies by c-section in this country. The rate was 1 in 5 in 1995.

Public heath experts think that many c-sections are unnecessary. So it is important for pregnant women to get the facts about c-sections before they deliver. Women should find out what c-sections are, why they are performed, and the pros and cons of this surgery.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.