Having A Cesarean Delivery: Pros And Cons

Cesarean deliveries carry benefits and risks that should be examined carefully prior to making a decision.

Giving birth via cesarean section is a very common alternative to a traditional vaginal delivery. A cesarean delivery is advantageous in many instances, particularly if there is abnormal risk involved with a vaginal birth. A cesarean section allows for the baby to be delivered more quickly and places less physical stress on the mother. A cesarean section may be necessary if the umbilical cord is delivered prematurely or is wrapped around the infant's neck. A cesarean section may also be advised if the mother suffers from an unusually difficult labor, vaginal herpes, diabetes or hypertension (elevated blood pressure). Furthermore, a c-section could be performed simply because the mother has had prior cesareans. A post-cesarean vaginal birth can be problematic, as pushing may cause uterine rupture.

Aside from the medical benefits associated with a cesarean delivery, women opting for this alternative may be afforded a multitude of other advantages. When the procedure is scheduled (as is typically the case when choosing a c-section), the woman is able to prepare for the delivery and her consequent absence from home and work. A cesarean section also imposes less physical intrusion, which can be appealing to some mothers. A straight incision is made just above the pubic bone""resulting in a nearly-invisible scar""and the vagina remains fairly tight and isn't cut to allow for passage of the infant's shoulders. It is also speculated that vaginal deliveries, and the sometimes inevitable use of forceps and vacuum suction, can result in pelvic floor damage, perineal trauma (from episiotomy) and tissue damage, so expectant moms may prefer a cesarean to avoid these painful and embarrassing conditions. Older women are often attracted to the idea of avoiding hours of painful labor and subsequent exhaustion. They are also more prone than younger mothers to rectal herniation after vaginal delivery.

Cesarean sections can also significantly benefit the baby, as vaginal deliveries are said to carry a greater risk for fetal stress and injury, including intrapartum death and acquired hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy""brain damage caused by a decreased oxygen flow. Infants delivered by c-section also look more "normal" than those delivered vaginally, which some mothers greatly desire. Vaginal babies often have misshapen, pointy heads and a purplish skin tone. Cesarean babies typically do not.


The pros and cons of a cesarean birth should be weighed carefully before a decision is made. While there certainly are benefits associated with c-sections, it is also a major surgery and it, like any other procedure, carries risks. For instance, a mother may experience prolonged bleeding; cesareans often result in almost twice the blood loss of vaginal deliveries. She may also temporarily lose bowel control or acquire an infection of the uterine tissue (endometriosis) or surrounding organs. Rarely, women undergoing a cesarean suffer from damaged blood vessels, kidneys, bladders and complications from anesthesia including low blood pressure and pneumonia. Because many muscles are severed, some women lose a significant amount of abdominal strength. Women are also much more likely to be rehospitalized following a cesarean delivery than they are following a vaginal birth. Additionally, they are at greater risk of experiencing placenta previa, a condition that causes the placenta to attach closely to the cervix, resulting in the premature delivery of the placenta. Furthermore, women who undergo unexpected cesarean are put at an increased risk for depression and post-traumatic stress.

Cesareans can also be harmful to the baby.If the procedure is scheduled (does not follow the onset of normal labor) and the due date calculated incorrectly, the infant could be born prematurely. It's also always possible that the surgeon may accidentally nick the baby when making the incision.

The appropriateness of cesarean delivery is different for each mother. Some may opt in as a safety precaution, others for convenience or cosmetics, and some may experience emergent medical problems that leave them no choice. It is important, under any circumstance, to weigh the options carefully to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.

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