Will You Need a C-Section?

Approximately one in five births in the United States are by Cesarean delivery – birth of the baby through an incision in the abdominal and uterine walls – according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In recent years, hospitals and physicians have been making a concerted effort to reduce the number of Cesarean deliveries, but the rates are still high. The reasons C-sections are performed include:

• active genital herpes at the time of delivery;

• breech presentation (when the baby is not positioned head-downward in the womb);

• placenta previa (when the placenta is positioned below the baby);

• when the mother is an insulin-dependent diabetic with a large baby;

• if the mother is having inadequate contractions or the baby’s head is not dropping.

A C-section can be lifesaving surgery in certain circumstances. Having a C-section the first time you have a baby doesn’t mean you necessarily will have one the next time. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports vaginal birth after a Cesarean delivery (VBAC) for some patients, so talk to your obstetrician about whether you are a candidate.

What to Expect

If you must have a C-section, you will be consulted about anesthesia when you are taken to the operating room. Many women opt for an epidural or spinal, so that they can be conscious for the birth.

• With your doctor's approval, spouse, partner, or coach will be able to be with you during the surgery. 

• During the operation, a nurse will keep you posted on what is happening.

• You will see the baby when he or she is born, before the baby is cleaned and checked.

• Then you will be stitched up and brought to recovery.


Since a C-section is major surgery, there is always the possibility of complication, as with any surgical procedure. It will take you longer to recover from a C-section than from a vaginal birth. Here are some suggestions to help ease your recovery:

• Get out of bed and move around, but be careful not to overdo it.

• Avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby.

• You will be directed not to drive for a specific amount of time (usually two to three weeks); adhere to these recommendations.

• Get help with your baby, other children and housework. If necessary, let the housework slide.

• Ask your care provider when you can exercise. Then join a postpartum exercise class designed for women recovering from C-sections (these are usually available through your local hospital).

• Expect that it may take several months before you feel like yourself again.

Learn more:

Ceasarean Section Frequently-Asked Questions