For pregnant women everywhere, especially first-time moms, the possibility of having a cesarean section birth, or C-section, is very real.
The numbers have steadily increased for C-section births, especially for high-risk pregnancies like those of women having twins, or breech babies, or who are experiencing prolonged labor.
In 2005, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) the C-section rate nationally was 29.1 percent, or more than one in four women.
The reasons for the uptick in C-section births vary. Some experts say that the use of fetal monitors, which keep track of the heartbeat of the baby in utero, can give inaccurate readings and can push a doctor to recommend a C-section.
The decline of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBACs) may also be a contributing factor. The VBAC rate went from 28 percent in 1996 to only 9 percent in 2014. Due to a small (1 percent) chance of a uterine rupture, many hospitals and doctors will not allow VBACs to even be attempted.
A third cause in the rise of C-sections is what some say is a decline of the skill of doctors who are used to delivering vaginally in only the easiest situations.
Whatever the reasons for the increase of the C-section rate, that doesn’t mean you have to be included in these statistics. Cesarean sections may be medically necessary to ensure the health of both mother and child in some cases. But there are things that pregnant women can do to lower their chances of having a C-section.
Here are some things you can do to reduce your odds:
1) Look for a doctor who is inclined towards vaginal births.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the doctor’s first-time C-section rate as well as that rate for their practice as a whole. Let your doctor know you prefer a vaginal birth if at all possible.
2) Check out the C-section rates of the hospitals where you may deliver.
Only two states (New York and Massachusetts) are required to publish this information, but it can usually be found with a Google search or by calling the hospital directly. Knowing ahead of time if a hospital has above or below average rates may help you choose where to deliver.
3) Go into labor naturally.
Women who have their labor induced before their cervix is ready can have unproductive labor which may then prompt a C-section after a prolonged period of time. Getting an epidural too early (or getting one at all) can increase the odds of a C-section too.
4) Labor at home for as long as possible.
Assuming your pregnancy is not high-risk and that there are no complications once labor starts, try to labor at home. Laboring in the hospital for a longer period of time means that the monitoring may cause discomfort and decrease your mobility. This could lead to a recommendation for cesarean section.
5) Hire a doula.
Having a doula, someone who provides continuous labor support, may significantly lower the risk of having a C-section, according to studies cited by AmericanPregnancy.org.
If you must have a cesarean section after all ...
While C-sections may not be the way most women want to deliver their babies, in some cases they are unavoidable. Women should know that even if they do all their research and follow all the advice to avoid a cesarean birth, it still might be necessary to ensure the health of themselves and their babies.
Fitpregnancy.com. Web. 4 March 2015. “Why you don’t want a C-section.”
AmericanPregnancy.org. Web. 4 March 2015. “Avoid a Cesarean.”
Reviewed March 5, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith