Cesarean sections are lifesavers in certain situations. For the most part, Cesareans are safe. However, they are major surgery, complete with the risks and after-effects of any major operation.
While the rate of C-sections has declined slightly in the last few years, more than 1 in 5 births is a Cesarean. Many authorities, including the U.S. government and the World Health Organization, believe that is far too high. By some estimates, as many as half of all C-sections are unnecessary.
What You Can Do
As an expectant mother, you can take steps to improve your chances of having a vaginal delivery*. Each birth experience is different, though; so keep an open mind in the delivery room. Even if you have done all these things, you may need a Cesarean. If so, you needn’t feel the slightest bit guilty, because you will know you made the best possible choices for you and your baby.
- Inform yourself thoroughly about all aspects of childbirth and the options available to you.
- Learn about your hospital’s policies with regard to issues that may affect the birth. These include such things as whether you will be allowed to walk during labor, or a maximum time limit on labor.
- Use a midwife and/or doula (a nonmedical labor support person). Midwives and labor support appear to reduce the incidence of Cesareans.
- When you go into labor, don’t go to the hospital early. Talk to your doctor or midwife in advance about what guidelines to use for when to go to the hospital.
- Don’t spend your labor lying on your back in bed. If you are tired and need to rest, by all means, lie down — preferably on your side or with the bed adjusted to a semi-upright position.
- Walk during labor. Walking may help labor progress.
- Avoid being attached to a fetal monitor for your entire labor. Women who have constant fetal monitoring may have a higher rate of C-sections. They also prohibit walking.
- Be cautious about epidurals. Evidence on whether epidurals slow down labor and increase Cesareans is inconclusive. Some studies have found that women who have epidurals have longer labors and more surgical births. An epidural will keep you on your back, hooked up to an IV. On the other hand, there may be instances where epidurals may actually help speed the birth. See my Daily Health article Epidurals.
The primary sources used to compile this material were: Childbirth.org and “The Birth Book,” by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.