Whether you would prefer natural birth or a C-section, you may not have a choice ultimately. Even after a relatively uneventful pregnancy, the final weeks and the labor process could require you to undergo a C-section in order to save you and/or your baby from harm.
If you do end up having a C-section, you are in good company. Roughly 32 percent of all births here in the United States happen this way. Sometimes, the procedure is planned for one reason or another, but in other cases, it's done as an emergency surgery when supposedly unforeseen issues arise during labor.
What constitutes an emergency?
Under the following circumstances, your obstetrician may rush you into emergency surgery:
- If your baby is in distress and the fastest way to get him or her medical attention is through an emergency C-section
- If your labor stalls or fails to progress after 14 hours if you've already given birth at least once or after 20 hours if this is your first child
- If the placenta separates from your uterine wall, it could reduce the oxygen to your baby
- If the umbilical cord slips out of your vagina, it could wrap around the baby as it comes through the birth canal, causing a lack of oxygen
If your obstetrician and the staff attending to you during your labor notice any indication of these issues, then the sooner you get into surgery, the better it would be for your baby and you. The longer your doctor waits, the greater the danger to your child.
When would an elective C-section occur?
Your doctor may determine that, due to one of the following situations, it would be better to deliver your baby via C-section early rather than allow you to begin labor:
- If you are carrying more than one baby
- If the baby fails to turn head down, but is breech (feet first) or transverse (sideways) for birth
- If you have had any surgery to your uterus in the past, including a prior C-section
- If your pelvis is not large enough for the baby to pass through
- If the baby is too large to go through the birth canal safely
- If the placenta covers your cervix, which blocks the baby's path
- If you suffer from a chronic or communicable health condition
- If the baby suffers from a birth defect
In these cases, a C-section may be less stressful on the baby and the mother. Labor and delivery place a tremendous amount of stress on both mother and child, and in some cases, it would be better to avoid it.
When an obstetrician fails to order a C-section
Timing is often everything when it comes to ordering a C-section. If your obstetrician waits too long, it could jeopardize the health of you and your baby. Your baby could suffer irreversible birth injuries that rob him or her of the chance of a normal life. In fact, your lives could be in danger as well. If something goes wrong during your child's birth and you discover that a C-section at the right time would have prevented it, you may want to find out what your rights and legal options are.