Cesarean birth can be life-saving for the baby and/or the mother, but doctors are concerned cesarean deliveries are overused. In the past, a lot of cesareans were scheduled by doctors who needed to go on vacation so it was convenient for them. Nowadays, complications may be a cause of cesareans, such as a breech.
Today, approximately 60% of all cesarean births are for a woman’s first delivery. If you have a medical issue that could complicate labor or delivery, such as maternal high blood pressure or the baby is in a breech position (buttocks or feet first), your doctor will opt for a C-section. In emergency situations when the baby or mother is in distress delivery will be via an “emergency” C-section.
How Can I Reduce My Chances of a Cesarean Birth?
ACOG‘s Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery recommends reducing cesarean deliveries by:
- Allowing prolonged latent (early) phase labor.
- Considering cervical dilation of 6 cm (instead of 4 cm) as the start of active phase labor.
- Allowing more time for labor to progress in the active phase. Unnecessary medical interventions like elective inductions or medical augmentations of labor increase the chances of having a C-section. Labor takes time. When it’s rushed by medicine, the chance for a C-section goes up. Way up.
- Allowing women to push for at least two hours if they have delivered before, three hours if it’s their first delivery, and even longer in some situations, for example, with an epidural.
- Using techniques to assist with vaginal delivery, which is the preferred method when possible. This may include the use of forceps, for example.
- Encouraging patients to avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Health issues before getting pregnant have an increased chance of cesarean. By reducing risks of high blood pressure before getting pregnant, we can reduce the risks of cesareans. That means lower sodium diets, getting an adequate intake of Choline, exercising regularly, etc
- Work with a licensed obstetrician who works with midwives and doulas. This helps prevent a lot of medical violence (invasive birth) situations unless they are absolutely necessary. Midwives are trained to be able to help move a baby, with proper x-rays.
- Learn to manage Gestational diabetes by lowering sugar intakes, and just trying to be as healthy as possible. This can reduce the need for medically required cesarean section
Don’t panic if your delivery ends in a C-section anyway. Sometimes surgery really is the best method to protect you and your baby from complications.
- Find a health care provider and birth setting with low rates of intervention. Be sure to ask your health care provider about their philosophy on cesareans and their cesarean rate (rates vary between 10-50%1 nationally).
- Become more educated about birth by taking childbirth classes, reading books, and asking lots of questions.
- Create a Flexible Birth Plan
- Explore options for coping with pain. If you can, avoid epidural analgesia, at least in early labor. An early epidural limits your movements and your baby’s movements which can lead to the need for an intervention (IV, continuous monitoring, bladder catheter, etc.).
- Avoid continuous electric fetal monitoring during labor. Studies show that EFM can increase the chance of cesarean by up to one-third.
- Ask for recommendations on turning a breech baby, and actively attempt these if necessary.
- Avoid induction if possible.
- Arrange for continuous labor support from a professional, like a midwife or doula. (Studies show that women with continuous labor support are 26% less likely to have a cesarean).
Being educated on what happens during birth, what requires a C-section, and what doesn’t can reduce the chances of getting one? Studies prove that when people giving birth are educated or ask questions about the care they’re receiving, C-section rates are lower.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.