Medical reasons for a c-section

Cesarean birth (also called c-section) is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus. 

For some women and babies, a c-section is safer than vaginal birth. You may need a c-section because of medical reasons that affect your pregnancy.

If your pregnancy is healthy and you don’t have any medical reasons to have a c-section, it’s best to have your baby through vaginal birth.

What are medical reasons for having a c-section?

Your health care provider may suggest that you have a c-section because of complications that make vaginal birth unsafe. For example:

Pregnancy complications 

  • You've had a c-section in a previous pregnancy or other surgeries on your uterus (womb).
  • There are problems with the placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Placental problems can cause dangerous bleeding during vaginal birth. 
  • You have an infection, like HIV or genital herpes. 
  • You're having multiples (twins, triplets or more)
  • You have a chronic health condition, like diabetes or high blood pressure, that requires treatment. 

Complications during labor and birth

  • Your baby is too big to pass safely through the vagina.
  • Your baby is in a breech position (his bottom or feet are facing down) or a transverse position (his shoulder is facing down). The best position for your baby at birth is head down. 
  • Labor is too slow or stops. 
  • Your baby's umbilical cord slips into the vagina where it could be squeezed or flattened during vaginal birth. This is called umbilical cord prolapse. The umbilical cord is the cord that connects your baby to the placenta. It carries food and oxygen from the placenta to the baby.
  • Your baby has problems during labor, like a slow heart rate. This is also called fetal distress. 
  • Your baby has a certain type of birth defect. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works.

Can you schedule your c-section?

Yes. If there are medical reasons for having a c-section, you and your provider can plan for and schedule it. If you’re scheduling your c-section, talk to your provider about waiting until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy. This gives your baby the time she needs to grow and develop before birth.

Last reviewed: June, 2013