Sometimes a C-section is safer for you or your baby than is a vaginal delivery. Your health care provider might recommend a C-section if:

  • Your labor isn't progressing. Stalled labor is one of the most common reasons for a C-section. Perhaps your cervix isn't opening enough despite strong contractions over several hours — or the baby's head is simply too big to pass through your birth canal.
  • Your baby isn't getting enough oxygen. If your health care provider is concerned about your baby's oxygen supply or changes in your baby's heartbeat, a C-section might be the best option.
  • Your baby is in an abnormal position. A C-section might be the safest way to deliver the baby if his or her feet or buttocks enter the birth canal first (breech) or the baby is positioned side or shoulder first (transverse).
  • You're carrying twins, triplets or other multiples. When you're carrying multiple babies, it's common for one or more of the babies to be in an abnormal position. In this case, a C-section is often safer.
  • There's a problem with your placenta. If the placenta detaches from your uterus before labor begins (placental abruption) or the placenta covers the opening of your cervix (placenta previa), C-section might be the safest way to deliver the baby.
  • There's a problem with the umbilical cord. A C-section might be recommended if a loop of umbilical cord slips through your cervix ahead of your baby or if the cord is compressed by the uterus during contractions.
  • You have a health concern. Your health care provider might suggest a C-section if you have a medical condition that could make labor dangerous, such as unstable heart disease or high blood pressure. In other cases, a C-section might be recommended if you have an infection that could be passed to your baby during vaginal delivery — such as genital herpes or HIV.
  • Your baby has a health concern. A C-section is sometimes safer for babies who have certain developmental conditions, such as excess fluid in the brain (hydrocephalus).
  • You've had a previous C-section. Depending on the type of uterine incision and other factors, it's often possible to attempt a vaginal delivery after a previous C-section. In some cases, however, your health care provider might recommend a repeat C-section.

In addition, some women request C-sections with their first babies — sometimes to avoid labor or the possible complications of vaginal birth, or to take advantage of the convenience of a planned delivery. If you're considering a planned C-section for your first delivery, work with your health care provider to make the best decision for you and your baby.

Jun. 12, 2012