Avoiding 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 national cesarean birth rate was the highest ever at 29.1%, which is over a quarter of all deliveries. This means that over 1 in 4 women will experience a cesarean delivery.

Key Factors Related to Cesarean Birth:

There are some key factors that can influence the chance of having a cesarean delivery vs. a vaginal delivery. These can include:

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

Ways to Try to Avoid a Cesarean Birth:

  • Find a health care provider and birth setting with low rates of intervention
  • Ask your health care provider about their philosophy on cesareans and their personal cesarean rate (across the country the rates vary between 10-50%1)
  • Create a flexible birth plan and discuss it extensively with your health care provider
  • Become educated about birth. Take childbirth classes, read books, ask 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
  • Talk with your health care provider about how long you can wait to go to the hospital once labor begins (a common reason for cesareans is 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
  • Avoid induction if possible
  • When you are in labor, find a laboring/ pushing position that works for you and is helping labor progress

What else you should know about Cesarean Birth:

  • Cesarean Procedure
  • Reasons for a Cesarean
  • Cesarean Risks
  • Making the Most of a Cesarean
  • Care Following Cesarean

Last Edited 09/2008


1,2Maternity Center Association. What every pregnant women needs to know about Cesarean section. New York: MCA, April 2004.

3Thacker 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.

American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org

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