19 Ways to Avoid an Unnecessary Cesarean

The Public Citizen Health Research Group in Washington, D.C. has estimated that half of the nearly one million cesareans performed every year are medically unnecessary. With more appropriate care during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, half of the cesareans could have been avoided. Clearly there are times when cesareans are necessary. However, cesareans increase the risk to both mothers and babies. These are suggestions of things you can do to avoid an unnecessary cesarean and can help insure that your birth experience is as healthy and positive as possible.

BEFORE LABOR
Read and educate yourself, attend classes and workshops inside and outside the hospital.

Research and prepare a birth plan. Discuss your birth plan with your midwife or doctor and submit copies to your hospital or birth center.

Interview more than one care provider. Ask key questions and see how your probing influences their attitude. Are they defensive or are they pleased by your interest?

Ask your care provider if there is a set time limit for labor and second stage pushing. See what s/he feels can interfere with the normal process of labor.

Tour more than one birth facility. Note their differences and ask about their cesarean rate, VBAC protocol, etc.

Become aware of your rights as a pregnant woman.

Find a labor support person. Interview more than one. A recent medical journal article showed that labor support can significantly reduce the risk of cesarean.

Help ensure a healthy baby and mother by eating a well-balanced diet.


If your baby is breech, ask your care provider about exercises to turn the baby, external version (turning the baby with hands), and vaginal breech delivery. You may want to seek a second opinion.

If you had a cesarean, seriously consider VBAC. According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, VBAC is safer in most cases than a scheduled repeat cesarean, and up to 80 percent of woman with prior cesareans can go on to birth their subsequent babies vaginally.

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