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Reasons for Cesarean Section

With cesarean rates of over 30% in many countries, there are many suggested reasons for cesarean section - some are valid such as the life-saving benefits of a cesarean section in a medical emergency, while other reasons are more questionable.

Investigate when it IS advisable to undergo this major surgery.

Valid medical reasons for cesarean section

Non-medical reasons for cesarean birth

No one denies that when certain medical conditions put a mother or her baby at risk, then the life-saving benefits of a cesarean outweigh the serious risks of this major surgical operation.

In other cases, reasons for a cesarean are less valid and you really need to think carefully before you make a decision. An elective cesarean, planned for convenience may possibly end in serious consequences that were not part of the plan!

Many healthcare professionals believe that a procedure that should be used only to avoid serious complications, is being over-used, resulting in even more surgery-related complications for both mothers and their babies.

Most cesareans are unnecessary. Research into reasons for emergency cesareans found that 66% occur between the 25% of day shift hours of 8am and 3pm, and the least between 5am and 6am, leading the authors to conclude that physician convenience is a leading cause of "emergency cesareans".
Goldstick O, Weissman A, Drugan A. The circadian rhythm of "urgent" operative deliveries. Isr Med Assoc J. 2003 Aug;5(8):564-6.

Click here to read the Risks of Cesarean Section.

What are Good Medical Reasons for Cesarean Section?

The following medical conditions are valid reasons for a cesarean:

  • chronic maternal illness - diabetes, kidney or heart disease or other life-threatening conditions
  • pre-eclampsia - in certain cases where the mother has very high blood pressure a cesarean may be required
  • prolapsed cord - this is where the cord is presenting first and could be compressed and diminish blood flow to the baby, which would put the baby at risk.
  • certain types of placenta praevia at term - where the placenta is low lying and partially or completely covers the cervix and could result in haemorrhage. In the case of a marginal placenta previa, a vaginal birth may be an option.
  • placenta abruptia - this refers to a situation where the placenta detaches from the uterus. This may result in the baby receiving too little oxygen and so a cesarean may be needed.
  • uterine rupture - if the uterus tears, the mother will hemorrhage and the baby may be oxygen-deprived so an emergency cesarean would be necessary
  • initial outbreak of active herpes at the onset of labor - to prevent the baby being infected in the birth canal a cesarean would be advised
  • true fetal distress during labor and birth will cause the baby not to receive enough oxygen so an an emergency cesarean would be needed
  • certain positions (presentations) of the baby may require a cesarean e.g. transverse lie at full dilation, brow presentation etc.
  • previous classical cesarean, where there was a longitudinal cut in the uterus
  • true cases of cephalo-pelvic disproportion may result in the need for a cesarean
  • multiple births - certain presentations may require a cesarean, but most often twins and triplets can be safely birthed vaginally too

If you have one of the above conditions, then you should read these tips for a Planned Cesarean Section and Recovery from a Cesarean.

Non-medical Reasons for Cesarean Section

Cesarean section rates vary depending on policies at different birth venues and practices of different caregivers.

There are legal, social and financial reasons for cesarean section, which are not always in the best interest of the health and safety of women giving birth and their babies. Reasons such as:

  • side effects of medical intervention, such as induction, epidural etc.
  • lack of belief that women can birth naturally without medical intervention
  • lack of support for women in labor. Research shows that having a doula may reduce cesareans by up to 50%.
  • unwillingness to use natural procedures first to enhance labor e.g., position, natural pain relief measures etc.
  • time pressures - caregivers won't allow enough time for natural progress in labor before moving to a cesarean
  • failure to offer women the opportunity for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) instead of a repeat cesarean
  • fear of litigation
  • convenience for caregivers - a cesarean can be scheduled
  • convenience for clients
  • unwillingness to offer women a trial of labour in unusual birth situations e.g. multiples, breech presentation etc.
  • false perception that a cesarean section is safe
  • the myth of the "too big baby" or "too small pelvis" - this cannot be accurately diagnosed without a trail of labor

There is no scientific evidence to support any of the above reasons for a cesarean birth.

Click here to watch a journalistic birthing video clip that focuses on reasons for the high cesarean rate.

More Pages Related to Reasons for Cesarean Section

Risks of Cesarean Section

Benefits of Vaginal Birth

Risks and Benefits of VBAC vs Risks of Cesarean


Cesarean Birth Videos

Back to Cesarean Section


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