Cesarean delivery is surgical delivery of a baby by incision through a woman's abdomen and uterus.
In the United States, about 2 to 3 in 10 deliveries are cesarean.
Doctors use a cesarean delivery when they think it is safer than vaginal delivery for the woman, the baby, or both, as in the following situations:
In the past, after a woman had one cesarean delivery, doctors recommended a cesarean delivery for all subsequent pregnancies. Doctors were concerned that the scar from the incision in the uterus might open (rupture) during labor (see see Uterine Rupture). However, doctors now realize that the risk of rupture is low after a cesarean delivery if the incision was made in the lower part of the uterus. Thus, if women have had only one previous cesarean delivery and the incision was made in the lower part of the uterus, they can choose to have a vaginal delivery. However, if women have had more than one cesarean delivery, most doctors recommend cesarean delivery for all subsequent pregnancies.
If a woman chooses vaginal delivery after having had one previous cesarean delivery, she should plan to have her baby in facilities equipped to rapidly do a cesarean delivery because
An obstetrician, an anesthesiologist, nurses, and sometimes a pediatrician are involved in this surgical procedure. Use of anesthetics, intravenous drugs, antibiotics, and blood transfusions helps make a cesarean delivery safe. Having the woman walk around soon after surgery reduces the risk of blood clots forming in the legs or pelvis, traveling to the lungs, and blocking arteries there (pulmonary embolism). Cesarean delivery results in more overall pain afterward, a longer hospital stay, and a longer recovery time than vaginal delivery.
For a cesarean delivery, an incision can be made in the upper or lower part of the uterus.
Last full review/revision June 2013 by Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD