April is Cesarean Awareness Month and our focus is to raise awareness in an attempt to reduce the number of cesareans that may be unnecessary.
For many women, a cesarean section is needed when there is a high risk of complications with a vaginal birth. Common situations that usually (or at times) require a C-section include:
- Breech position of the baby
- Placenta previa (when the opening from the womb to the vagina is covered by a low lying placenta)
- Severe medical problems like high blood pressure (“toxemia”) or seizures
- Possibly if the mother to be were involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered trauma
- Lack of progress in active labor due to a baby who is too large for the vaginal route
- A serious question about the baby’s well-being (e.g. abnormal heart rate patterns) strongly suggests that further labor is dangerous to the baby
The availability of cesareans can help avoid major birth complications for mother and baby when faced with the above situations. However, there are also increased risks of maternal complications (and sometimes even complications for the baby) with a C-section over vaginal delivery. These risks may include bleeding, infection, pneumonia, and injury to other organs such as the bladder or bowel. Recovery from a C-section also takes longer, typically about 4-6 weeks to heal fully. These may be unnecessary/undesired risks for elective C-sections, especially when factoring in potential problems for mother and child in the future.
Early in her pregnancy, an expectant mother should discuss every option with her physician or clinician. Through education and awareness, new mothers and babies will have the safest, healthiest options available in women’s healthcare.