Image of woman who wants to avoid a cesarean

There has been a gradual increase in cesarean births over the past 30 years. In November of 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the highest rate ever recorded for the national cesarean births–29.1% of all births.

This means that more than a quarter of pregnant women in the U.S.A. are likely to experience a cesarean delivery.

Key Factors in Considering Cesarean Birth:

Several key factors can influence the choice of cesarean vs. vaginal delivery.

These factors include:

  • Choice of health care provider and their philosophy regarding cesarean birth
  • Birth setting
  • Access to labor support
  • Medical interventions during labor

Steps for Avoiding Cesarean Birth:

  • Find a health care provider and birth setting with low rates of intervention
  • Ask the health care provider about their philosophy on cesareans and their cesarean rate (rates vary between 10-50%1 nationally)
  • Create a flexible birth plan and discuss the plan with your health care provider
  • Become more educated about birth by taking childbirth classes, reading books, and asking lots of questions.
  • Arrange for continuous labor support from a professional, like a doula. (Studies show that women with continuous labor support are 26% less likely to have a cesarean2).
  • Explore options for coping with pain
  • Ask your health care provider about how long you can delay going to the hospital once labor begins. A common reason forces prolonged labor at the hospital.
  • Avoid continuous electric fetal monitoring during labor. Studies show that EFM can increase the chance of cesarean by up to one-third3.
  • Avoid epidural analgesia if possible.
  • Ask for recommendations on turning a breech baby, and actively attempt these if necessary.
  • Avoid induction if possible.
  • When in labor, find laboring and pushing positions that work for you to help labor progress.

What else you should know about Cesarean Birth:

Last Updated: 08/2015

Complied using the following sources:

Maternity Center Association. What every pregnant woman needs to know about Cesarean section. New York: MCA, April 2004.
Facker SB. Stroup DF. Peterson HB. Continuous electronic fetal heart monitoring during labor. In Neilson JP et al., eds.
Pregnancy and Childbirth Module of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, updated June 1996.

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