Five Tips for Avoiding a Cesarean

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No mom-to-be wants to have a cesarean section, but with the ever-increasing number of cesareans in the U.S., a surgical delivery is something that may loom in the back of her mind. Although cesareans are sometimes medically necessary, the surgery can lead to increased risk of medical complications for mom and baby.

You can influence the chances of a safe and healthy birth, and drive down the risk of surgery, by considering some important issues before delivery day.

1. Choose a maternity care provider and birth setting with low cesarean rates.
One of the best ways to reduce your chances of delivering by cesarean is to give birth in a location, and with a provider, that maintains low cesarean rates. There is no federal mandate for health care providers to report this information, so ask the health care provider or birth setting for statistics. It is also important that you communicate your desire to avoid a cesarean with the maternity care provider so they can create a birth plan designed to reduce the risk.

2. Be skeptical of justifications for a cesarean that are not based on research.
Many women are advised to have a C-section for reasons that are not supported by medical research.  They may be told they are too overweight, too short or too old for vaginal delivery. Others are pushed to have a cesarean because their due date has passed, they have low amniotic fluid, they are making slow progress in labor, or they had a cesarean in their prior delivery. All of these justifications merit more research or questioning.

Be prepared to ask what your options are. To help make informed decisions, ask questions such as: “Can we wait a little longer?” “Is my baby in any immediate danger?” and “What are the risks of proceeding with surgery versus without it?”

3. Let labor start on its own.
When hospitals use medication to induce labor, studies have consistently shown that it nearly doubles a woman’s risk of having a C-section. Most women who are induced need an IV and a continuous electronic fetal heart rate monitor, which most often confines mothers to bed. A natural start to labor, and staying upright and mobile during labor are some of the best ways to increase chances of a smooth birth.

4. Arrange for a skilled labor support person to be by your side.
While many women envision a labor-and-delivery nurse helping them through their contractions, most nurses are caring for multiple women simultaneously and don’t have time to devote to one-on-one labor support. Consider including a trained labor support person in your birthing plan. Women fare better when they bring a loved one or doula to help support them through pain-coping methods, such as changing position and bathing, and are more likely to avoid using an epidural, which prohibits them from walking, standing and squatting.

5. Take a childbirth education course.
Childbirth educators can help you understand your options and what to expect in the delivery room. Two popular birthing methods are Lamaze and the Bradley method. Each method supports the idea that, with the right preparation, women can avoid pain medication during labor, and they use breathing and relaxation techniques as an alternative for a successful and healthy delivery. Couples usually begin taking these classes during the third trimester, with classes lasting between four and six weeks.

Area hospitals also offer childbirth classes that give a general overview of the childbirth process, pain-relief options and other amenities available in a hospital delivery room to help mom-to-be along her labor journey. CP

– Information provided by Lamaze International. Find more at