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Scheduled C-Section? Your Baby's at Risk!

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Dr. Elizabeth Lyster: Women should try to have their babies by vaginal delivery. There. I said it. I know not every mom can deliver vaginally. And I know that not every labor ends this way, and that is OK. Cesarean section can be a life-saving surgery for both mother and baby.

woman in delivery room looking at newborn

The problem is when a woman chooses to have her first baby by scheduled C-section. People seem to forget that this is a major surgery, with risks that go with any surgery (bleeding, infection, internal organ damage, etc.). Recovery is longer and usually more painful than after a vaginal delivery. Most importantly to the point of this article, C-section delivery raises the chances of having another C-section with later deliveries to over 90%!

And here's where the babies also have more risk. A new study shows that babies born by scheduled repeat C-section are sicker than if born by vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). They are twice as likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care, and more likely to have breathing problems requiring oxygen.

The topic of VBAC is controversial, as is planning a first birth by C-section. While a woman's body sure does get stretched out by vaginal delivery, not all problems (such as urine leakage later in life) are avoided by C-section. I will always respect an individual woman's choice for mode of delivery. However, based on my personal and professional experience, and now with study data showing more risk to babies with elective repeat C-section, I encourage women (and their doctors) to make their best effort for a vaginal first birth.

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57 comments so far | Post a comment now
Gigohead  June 1, 2009, 10:22 AM

I’m surprised to learn that first time mothers are even given this option. I have yet to meet a woman who has even opted for something like this with her first child. Even with a breach, most docs find a way to safely massage the baby into place. With my son, I was told to prepare myself that I was going to be a candidate for a c-section because my pelvic bone was not wide enough to birth my son.

I did choose a c-section for my daughter because there was no way I would have given birth to her vaginally. That’s the same route I am choosing for my third come October.

It’s not an easy choice to make. I’d wish I was a vaginal “birth-er” recovery is much more quicker.

Secret Mommy June 1, 2009, 11:22 AM

I have a friend who is on her 3rd (and final) pregnancy and ELECTIVE, SCHEDULED c-section. As a person who desperately wanted a natural birth and vaginal delivery for my first and ended up with an emergency section, I just can’t understand her choices regarding birthing her babies. I’m now pregnant with #2 and working with a midwife and ob/gyn practice that encourages VBAC. I’ll be taken care of well if my pregnancy leads to another UN-elected c-section, but we’re all preparing for and hoping for a VBAC for my health and the baby’s.

Mommy of 2 June 1, 2009, 1:33 PM

I had to have a c-section with my first due to her being a breach and not wanting them to try to turn her and cause possible damage to her. I also elected to have a c-section with my second but have often wished for a vaginal birth. The recovery was not horrible but rather painfree for me and was released from the hospital for both c-sections by the 3rd day.

Mother of 2 June 1, 2009, 1:35 PM

Also, I do not believe that c-section babies are at higher risk for being sick!!

Queen Bee June 1, 2009, 2:18 PM

I had an emergency C-section and my OBGYN said the VBAC runs a higher risk of having another emergency C-section. So it would be better for me and baby to schedule a C-section for the second child. Plus I think he said that they will only try a VBAC once and if that ends in a C-section they won’t permit a third try at VBAC for baby number three. I do know of people who have tried VBAC and it has worked successfully. So do what you feel is right. But I wouldn’t recommend first time scheduled C-sections unless there are certain previously complications. No reason to take the baby out early if you don’t have to.

MICHELLE  June 1, 2009, 5:03 PM


Anonymous June 1, 2009, 5:55 PM

Everyone forgets that everyone is different and has different circumstances and experiences in their lives. I had to have a scheduled c-section to deliver my first born because of a prior “c-section type” surgery to remove a fibroid. The surgery was fine and I was home in 3 days with no pain and no pain medication and I nursed for one year and now have a happy, healthy almost 3 year old. I, for one, was grateful for the c-section because the hospital near my home is not good, so I chose to deliver at a hospital 35 miles away from home. Not sure if I would have done that if the delivery was not scheduled. Don’t understand why there is such a negative stigma attached to c-section births. Did I mention that I have a happy, healthy child.

veg mom June 1, 2009, 6:44 PM

I had my child by c-section, and he is healthier BY FAR than any other children I’ve met in his age group - Vag or C birthed. He’s been sick twice since he was born. We eat a strict vegan diet and I believe that’s why he’s healthier than other kids his age (18 months). I don’t think it has anything to do with how he was birthed.

tracy516 June 1, 2009, 7:36 PM

My First was a premie born 10 weeks early, but was a vaginal birth. Never even thought there was a CHOICE. My second child I pushed for 2 1/2 hours and then his blood pressure dropped very low. So my choice at that time with my doctors approval was a c-section. My second child is in great health and at 2 hasn’t even had a ear infection or bad cold. My premie on the other hand had everything under the sun. So you never know.

ame i. June 1, 2009, 8:21 PM

Both of my daughters were over a week late. I had to have an emergency-c with my first but had a VBAC with my second. The recovery from the section was much longer and harder than with the VBAC. Both girls have been pretty much the same health-wise.

K&C's mom June 1, 2009, 10:47 PM

I have no choice but to have a c-section, I am too narrow, my first fine, but my second, had premature lung disease due to the doc’s stupidity, telling me I was wrong on my dates, and taking him 5 weeks early, so health issues aren’t always due to the manor of birth!!!!

Allison June 2, 2009, 7:49 AM

I had an emergency c-section a year and a half ago and I am now pregnant and going to deliver via c-section at the end of the year. Because I didn’t dilate past 7 CM, I was told this problem could happen again, and after being in labor for hours (like I was for the first time), I would have to have another c-section. I am choosing a c-section, but am scared by stats that c/s babies are sicker. I am going to have to discuss this with my OB.

Heather June 2, 2009, 7:51 AM

I would like to have seen the studies cited or more elaboration on the author’s part. This article is entirely too brief for such a multifaceted subject!

Momlogic moms are busy, and when they choose to take the time to read an article it should be complete and informative!

I love Momlogic but I’m disappointed in this article.

Kina June 2, 2009, 8:31 AM

My 1st son was an emergency C-section because he was breech and the doctor attempted to turn him but was not able. My 2nd son was an attempted VBAC and ended in a C-Section because his heart rate would drop with every attempted push,my 3rd due in July 09 will be a C- Section, all of my children are breast feed and have no health concerns. Every womens body ad genetic makeup is different!!!!

Amber June 2, 2009, 8:39 AM

Thank you for your article! There are so many benefits to vaginal delivery for both mommy and baby. Unfortunately though I tried for a vaginal delivery, I had a c-section for my first - the doctors told me it was because he was posterior (sunny-side up) and got stuck. I was determined to have a VBAC for my 2nd and “studied” all sorts of natural birthing books and web sites. I even had to have a version done towards the end as my baby was breech. BUT, I did it! Not only did I have a VBAC but it was unmedicated and my second baby was also posterior! Then just 18 months later, I had my 3rd child, VBAC, unmedicated and again - posterior.

Katrena June 2, 2009, 10:57 AM

I have to agree that every woman is different. We each have our own body make up as well as different levels of pain tolerance. My first was a succesful vaginal delivery. My second, and emergency c-section. I have a high pain tolerance so didnt see much difference in the healing time with the c-section other than the stitches and staples. My third, I switched doctors so that I could have VBAC as my original doctor wouldn’t do it. I do not like invasive procedures, catheters, epidurals, etc. I ended up having a C-section with my third because he was late and I was exhausted. I felt completely invaded and violated, I am disappointed in myself for not holding out a week longer for a vaginal, med-free delivery. But all my children are here and all healthy. I do not agree with choosing to have a C-section because of body image, we were made to birth babies and we should be proud of the “proof” on our bodies. C-sections for health issues are in a differet category altogether and obviously we each have to do what is right for our selves and our children. This article was entirely too short to provide enough information and fact to support their title.

Motherof5 June 2, 2009, 12:34 PM

I believe as adults we should be well informed to make the best decision possible. I don’t care for c-sections and if someone tells me they are electing to have one, I have to admit I grill them to make sure they are aware of the risks. I’ve spoken to women that are afraid of “natural” child-birth and believe a c-section is better. Spoken to career Moms that have a need to “plan” the birth of their child so that they have adequate time to recuperate and bond with their child b4 going back to work and the list goes on. At the end of the day, we are the ones with the last say-so. So although I don’t agree with someone electing to have one for their first child as long as you are informed, what can you say. I support all of my friends, families and colleagues with the decision they make. For me my first was a c-section. I labored for 10 hrs every 2 minutes for almost 8 of those hrs not dilating past 2 cm and there is no word for the condition my body was in! Emergency c-section gave me a beautiful healthy little girl. My second I tried VBAC, dilating to 8 and the baby was under too much duress so here we go. His heart rate kept dropping dangerously low. I used a mid-wife for our son and still no luck! My third was a scheduled c-section and I pushed the surgery date as far as I could so that I could try for a VBAC again and sure enough he came b4 my scheduled date and I got up to 8 cm rushed to the hospital only to have yet another c-section. Same duress issue. 2 more surprise pregnancies later due to miscalculation of weaning my sons from breast-feeding and not having a back-up plan. I have a full time job outside of the home and short-term memory. Of course they were scheduled c-sections because of the other 3 and no one would touch me otherwise. All of our children are healthy, no one has ever had an ear infection and if it weren’t for the pollen, would rarely get sick. So this did not affect my children that I can see. They are smart, beautiful, happy children and I would do it all over again. This is not to say there is a small part of me that feels like a failure for not being able to have a “natural” childbirth. I envy the women who can. I gained 65 lbs with each pregnancy so my recovery time is very long and painful ( no I didn’t over eat). I would not wish this on anyone but it is an “means” to hopefully a happy ending. Like anything else, educate yourself and talk to other Moms. Know what you are getting into and God Bless You!!

Jen June 11, 2009, 4:14 PM

I’m curious, how BIG were your babies?? I had my first baby via c-section because he was posterior, too, AND what they considered very large (9lbs 1oz). I’m pregnant, again, and my doctor usually recommends a VBAC if the mother is willing to try but says that for ME, she fears a repeat posterior baby AND that the baby will be even larger which will result in an emergency c-section. She wants me to just have a scheduled one. I’m fairly small 5’3”, petite to average build. They were very concerned with my son getting stuck because of either his size or his position or BOTH!

Jessie June 24, 2009, 5:28 PM

Jen,Iam too curious as to your question. I had my son in Oct of 06’ and I did 12 hours of labor and then his heart rate dropped dangerously low, thus I had a c-section. It was not til he came out that we all found out he was a big boy (10lb 5oz). I too am only 5’3 and have only gained 22pounds in this second pregnancy, due on Aug 8th. This baby is measuring large again and the doc, though she offers VBAC, is suggesting a c-section if I don’t go by then. I have one scheduled for the 5th. I was just curious on what you have been reading/hearing on this issue.

Cayenne July 30, 2009, 4:01 PM

I am the mother of four boys (12, 10, 8 and 4). The first was a c-section due to a vaginal infection. The other three were all VBAC. THe second was a 31 hour labor and the last two were over 10 pounds. All are healthy but the first son (c-section) did suffer from breathing issues the first two years that needed hospitalization. It became increasingly hard to find a doctor or hospital that would do a VBAC as the years went on. I would take the very long labor and faster recovery any day over a c-section/major surgery if it did not jeopardize myself or that of my baby.

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