C-section for riskier deliveries, health concerns

Cesarean section (commonly known as C-section) involves surgical removal of a baby by way of incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. A C-section may be planned due to certain health complications of the mother or baby, or it may be done in an emergency, if certain conditions apply during the mother’s labor.

At Main Line Health we offer traditional cesarean delivery as well as “gentle-C,” also known as family-centered cesarean. Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is also an option for some women who have previously had a C-section. Be sure to discuss your preferences and the options available to you with your own provider.

Why you might need a C-section

Birth is a normal, healthy process and most women are capable of a natural (vaginal) delivery. In some cases, however, the mother may have a condition, or there may be a circumstance, that could make vaginal delivery more risky, such as:

  • A heart problem that could become worse during labor
  • An infection that could pass from mom to baby if delivered vaginally
  • A breech baby (when baby’s head is near your ribs instead of head down)
  • Previous C-section or complications during delivery

Even if you expect to have a vaginal delivery, your body and/or the baby may respond differently than expected during labor. An emergency C-section could be the only option to ensure the health of you and your baby.

More women want gentle-C and better birth experience

Whether planned or unplanned, a C-section is a major surgery that requires local anesthesia (numbing of the lower part of your body) and stitching after the baby is removed.

Women who have had C-sections sometimes talk about feeling “disconnected” from their birth experience. This is because in the past, a surgical sheet has separated the mother from her lower body so she can’t see the baby coming out of her womb. The standard procedure has also been to take the baby for examination while the mother is stitched up from surgery.

A new approach that first became popular in Europe is called “gentle-C” or family-centered cesarean, which produces a better surgical experience for mom and partner when C-section is the only option.

With gentle-C a clear drape allows the mom to see her baby being removed from her belly. The baby is then placed skin-to-skin on the new mom. A mom who is having a gentle-C may also keep one arm free from having an IV drip or other type of monitoring, so she can hold her baby. As she is snuggling with her baby, the doctor completes the surgery by closing up the uterus and abdomen with stitches. This early skin-to-skin contact has been shown to have many benefits to moms and babies of vaginal births, such as the mother having greater confidence in her mothering abilities and more immediate balancing of baby’s temperature and other vital signs. It is believed that the same benefits apply to moms and their babies who’ve been delivered by C-section. During these first moments of the baby’s life, the dad or partner may also hold the baby. Sometimes breastfeeding can even begin in the surgery room.

Keep in mind that a gentle-C may not be an option in surgical emergencies. Be sure to talk to your doctor in advance about what’s important to you. This way the doctor can try to accommodate your wishes and needs as much as possible, regardless of what type of birth you have.

VBAC for healthy moms and babies

Some women who have had a cesarean section for a previous birth would prefer to have a vaginal birth the next time around. In many cases, VBAC is an option, but there may be special concerns for vaginal delivery. There are some risks associated with VBAC but there is also evidence that VBAC may be less risky than a second (or third) cesarean. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor or midwife to determine your options and the best choice for the health of you and your baby.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.