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 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 or babies are 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). When you're carrying multiple babies, it's common for one or more of the babies to be in an abnormal position.
  • You're carrying multiples. A C-section might be needed if the babies are being born early or if there are other problems.
  • There's a problem with your placenta. If 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. A C-section might be recommended if you have health conditions, such as complex heart problems, high blood pressure requiring urgent delivery or an infection that could be passed to your baby during vaginal delivery — such as genital herpes or HIV.
  • Mechanical obstruction. You might need a C-section if you have a large fibroid obstructing the birth canal, a severely displaced pelvic fracture or your baby has severe hydrocephalus, a condition that can cause the head to be unusually large.
  • 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 birth after a previous C-section. In some cases, however, your health care provider might recommend a repeat C-section.

Some women request C-sections with their first babies — to avoid labor or the possible complications of vaginal birth or to take advantage of the convenience of a planned delivery. However, this is discouraged if you plan on having several children. Women who have multiple C-sections are at increased risk of placenta problems as well as heavy bleeding, which might require a hysterectomy. 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.

Aug. 04, 2015