How to Avoid a C-Section
When thinking about your delivery, you probably imagine a normal vaginal birth. However, nearly 32 percent of American pregnancies end in C-sections, during which doctors deliver the baby through abdominal and uterine incisions.
Sometimes the decision to undergo a C-section is out of your control. For example, doctors may plan the procedure for medical problems (like maternal high blood pressure or breech presentation) that may complicate labor or delivery. Unscheduled "emergency" C-sections can also save a mother or baby in distress.
Even so, you might wonder what you can do to reduce your chances of cesarean birth. These 10 tips might help lower the odds—but don't panic if your delivery ends in a C-section anyway. Sometimes surgery really is the best method to protect a mother and her baby from complications.
How to Avoid a C-Section While Pregnant
Hire your provider wisely.
When choosing a healthcare provider—whether it's a doctor or midwife—ask about their C-section rates and policies. For example, some providers avoid vaginal births if you've had a previous C-section (VBAC), while others root for vaginal delivery whenever possible. Make sure your doctor shares your point of view and has the resources to handle whatever complications may arise. And remember: if you're unhappy with your provider at any point during your pregnancy, it's never too late to switch—even if you're just a few weeks out from your due date.
Hire a doula.
A meta-analysis of studies shows that women who use a doula are 26 percent less likely to have a cesarean birth. That's probably because doulas provide a unique combination of physical, emotional, and informational support throughout your pregnancy. Their comforting presence lets labor hormones work at optimal levels, and their positioning tricks can guide babies to work their way out. Doulas can also provide evidence-based information and communicate with the medical staff.
Having continuous support from a friend of family member can be helpful too, but the best results come when women hire an outside doula, according to a Cochrane Review.
Take an independent natural childbirth class.
If you want to avoid a C-section, consider enrolling in an independent childbirth class. An independent Lamaze-certified instructor will base her class on the six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices, a wonderful resource that lays the groundwork for the best possible birth. These classes should increase confidence and help you trust in the normal birth process—even if it means you have to advocate for yourself within the system.
Read inspiring childbirth books.
The right books can inform women on how to avoid a C-section during delivery. Here are some of our top choices.
- The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence, by Judith Lothian and Charlotte Devries
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
- Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience, by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
How to Avoid a C-Section During Delivery
Avoid induction unless there's a serious medical problem.
For a first-time mom, some studies show that inducing labor doubles the risk of a cesarean. Avoid induction if you can, but know that it's sometimes medically necessary (for mothers with preeclampsia, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) In these cases, don't hesitate to call on your childbirth instructor or doula for support.
Stay home as long as possible.
Don't head to the hospital until you're in active labor. That's because the longer you're in the hospital before Baby is born, the higher your risk of intervention (including a cesarean). Talk to your doctor about a game plan. For example, she might recommend heading in when contractions are four or five minutes apart, at least a minute long, for at least an hour.
- RELATED: How Many C-Sections Can You Have?
Avoid an epidural (at least in early labor).
Some evidence suggests that epidurals increase the C-section rate in first-time mothers, especially when women get them early in labor. That might be because epidurals limit your movements and your baby's movements, and they requires a lot of interventions (IV, continuous monitoring, bladder catheter, etc.). Of course, if the pain of labor is unbearable, there's nothing wrong with asking for an epidural; a majority of women choose the pain reliever!
Believe in your body!
Surround yourself with knowledgeable support in case you encounter any rare and unexpected complications. But never forget to trust your body and the birth process.