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Q&A: Do I Need a Cesarean?

Q. My doctor says I'll probably need to have a cesarean delivery because I'm in my 40th week of pregnancy and my baby is still breech. I've never had any kind of surgery before, so I'm really scared. Do I really need a cesarean?

A. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 85 percent of breech babies are born by cesarean delivery. Your baby's head is the largest part of his body, so if he descends headfirst, the birth canal is stretched enough for the rest of his body to follow easily. However, if his feet, buttocks, or legs emerge first, there is a higher risk of your baby's head getting stuck in the birth canal, or the baby's buttocks and legs may squeeze the umbilical cord, cutting off your baby's oxygen supply. Although there are some practitioners who are experienced in delivering breech babies vaginally, most now opt for a cesarean. Some practitioners may wait to see if the baby turns on his own when labor begins rather than schedule the surgery.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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