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How C-Sections Work

Unplanned C-sections

Most unplanned C-sections are emergency surgeries, which means they are performed after labor has begun, when the health of the mother or child is at risk. This can happen for a number of reasons.

  • Fetal distress, which is indicated by a dramatic change in the baby's heart rate. This is one of the most common reasons for an emergency C-section.
  • Placental abruption occurs when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall. This can cause excessive bleeding in the mother and decreased oxygen supply for the baby, both of which can result in death.
  • During a vaginal delivery, there can be umbilical cord problems. The cord can wrap around the baby's neck and cut off oxygen supply. It can also slip out of the birth canal before the baby, which can result in a lack of blood supply.
  • A long and difficult labor could also necessitate an unplanned C-section. Labor could stop progressing for several reasons, including cephalopelvic disproportion -- when the infant's head is too large for the mother's pelvic structure.
  • A maternal health condition could result in a C-section if it could be passed on to the child through vaginal delivery. For example, a mother with genital herpes can deliver vaginally, as long as she's not suffering from an outbreak. But if she is having an outbreak when her water breaks or during delivery, the baby is will be delivered via C-section.

C-sections are unavoidable in some situations, but what would make a doctor or mother choose one if there's no emergency? That's what we'll discuss in the next section.