A cesarean section (c-section) is an operation where a doctor makes a cut in your abdomen (above your bikini line) and womb and lifts your baby out through it.
If you know you will need a c-section before you go into labor, this is called a planned (elective) c-section.
If your doctor decides at short notice that a c-section is the safest way to deliver your baby, it is called an emergency c-section.
Planned c-sections are normally arranged from week 39 of pregnancy. This is because babies born earlier than this may not be fully developed for life outside the womb. You may have your c-section earlier than this if there is a medical reason for delivering the baby sooner.
If you need a planned c-section, you will see an obstetrician (a doctor who specializes in women’s care during pregnancy, labor and after birth). There will also be a midwife present at each of your appointments.
Can I choose to have a planned c-section?
Even if you don’t need one for medical reasons, you may feel you need to have a c-section. You may feel you cannot cope with the pain involved with a vaginal birth.
But having a c-section is not always risk-free. It is major abdominal surgery and it carries some risks for both you and your baby. It is likely to take longer to recover from the birth and you are expected to have some pain and discomfort for a few weeks afterward.
There is no clear evidence to suggest that the following actions affect your chances of needing a c-section:
1) walking around during labor
2) not lying on your back during labor
3) being in water during labor
4) drinking raspberry leaf tea
5) the midwife or doctor breaking your waters early.
Also, your height, or the size of your baby, cannot predict whether you will need a c-section. If you are short or you have a small pelvis or small feet, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a vaginal birth.