When and Why You May Need a C-section

Today, 1 in 3 U.S. babies is born by cesarean delivery (C-section). If a vaginal delivery is too risky, a C-section allows the baby to be delivered through an incision in the mother’s abdomen.

A scheduled C-section is more likely among women who:

Had a previous C-section (although vaginal delivery after a C-section is still possible for some women)

Are pregnant with multiples or a very large baby

Have certain health conditions, such as very high blood pressure (preeclampsia), heart or kidney disease or diabetes (because a vaginal birth can put too much stress on the body in these cases)

How C-Sections Are Scheduled

Increasingly, C-sections are only done when it’s medically necessary, because—like any surgery or major medical procedure—they come with risks of their own.

Your doctor will schedule a C-section between weeks 37 and 39 of pregnancy to make sure the baby has fully (or nearly fully) developed. Babies born too soon can have breathing, heart, brain, feeding and other serious problems.

But preeclampsia and other serious complications can sometimes necessitate an earlier delivery to protect the life of the mother and baby.

An unscheduled C-section is more likely if the:

Baby’s head is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis

Baby is in a breech (feet first) position

Placenta is too low and covers the cervical opening; placenta separates from the uterus; or uterus ruptures or tears

Baby or the mother shows signs of distress, including a surge in blood pressure in the mother during labor or delivery

See also ...

What to expect if you have a C-section

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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