What Can You Do to Lower C-Section Risk?

C-sections come up a lot in Boot Camp for New Moms workshops. Some moms-to-be feel like they’re not a big deal, while others will do anything they can to avoid having one. And we get it, it takes whatever it takes to have the baby, but C-sections are major surgery not to be taken lightly. C-sections happen though, so being knowledgeable and proactive will only empower you, no matter what you’re hoping birth will be like.

A study at the Stanford School of Medicine looked at the relationship between C-section rates and maternal/infant outcomes and determined a 19% Cesarean rate is the “sweet spot” and higher percentages don’t necessarily mean greater health outcomes. In the United States, about 33% of babies are born via Cesarean section. That number is slowly inching down, but compared to other industrialized countries, it’s still high (Sweden 15%, UK 23%).

So, if you’re concerned about the possibility of a C-section, here are some things to try:

  • Talk with your doctor regarding his/her Cesarean rate and overall philosophy. If their approach doesn’t line up with what you’re looking for, think about interviewing other physicians or midwifes. Also, hospital tours give you a chance to ask questions about policies and what to expect.

  • Check your budget and your health insurance to see if hiring a doula is possible. This can lower your chance of a C-section by up to 25%.

  • Stats show there is a correlation between women who come to the hospital early in labor and an increased likelihood of a cesarean. Ask your health care provider how long you can wait.

  • When you’re asking your doctor about their cesarean rate and philosophy, ask them what happens if your baby is breech? Do they automatically decide on a Cesarean, or try to turn the baby first?

  • Exercising while pregnant is backed up by research as an effective way to lower your risk of C-section as well. We’re not saying you should start P90X, just the typically recommended 30 minutes a day 5 days a week.

If you do have a Cesarean, here are a few things to know:

  • C-section babies are born in the first 5-10 minutes, but it takes another 30-45 minutes to repair your incision. Your partner will be allowed into the operating room, and he may be offered (or can request) to “cut” the umbilical cord, even though it was already cut during surgery.

  • You will be able to see your baby right away and, depending on hospital policy, may be allowed brief and assisted skin-to-skin contact. Dad can also hold her and bond (also skin-to-skin), as well as bring her close to your face so you can look in her eyes and say, “hello.” Once you’re moved to a recovery room, you’ll be able to snuggle and feed your baby all you want.

  •  Your hospital stay is about 3 days post-surgery, so both you and Dad will have plenty of opportunities to learn baby care from the nurses. Once home, complete recovery time takes about 6-8 weeks and activity is limited for the first 2 weeks. It’s a great time to establish teamwork and have Dad jump right in to help manage baby care.

  • With an unplanned C-section, it’s not uncommon to experience a range of emotions: sadness, anger, and disappointment. If these feelings linger and compromise your emotional wellness, let your doctor know right away so you can get professional support.

Remember, whether you’re planning for a vaginal birth or a C-section, it’s helpful to be informed on all fronts and to stay focused on the main objective: delivering a healthy, happy baby.

No matter how your baby enters the world, you will have birthed a human. Congrats mama, you rock!