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A woman who has a c-section usually takes longer to recover than a woman who has had a vaginal birth. Women can expect to stay 3 to 4 days in the hospital after a c-section. Full recovery usually takes 4 to 6 weeks. Usually, the hospital stay for vaginal birth is 2 days, with full recovery taking less time than a cesarean. C-section may be more expensive than a vaginal birth.
What about the risks?
When c-sections are done, most women and babies do well. But c-section is a major operation with risks from the surgery itself and from anesthesia.
The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 1 in 3 babies in the United States are delivered by c-section. Over the past few years, the rate of cesarean birth has increased rapidly. Some health care providers believe that many c-sections are medically unnecessary. When a woman has a cesarean, the benefits of the procedure should outweigh the risks.
The risk of late preterm birth
C-sections may contribute to the growing number of babies who are born "late preterm," between 34 and 36 weeks gestation. While babies born at this time are usually considered healthy, they are more likely to have medical problems than babies born a few weeks later at full term.
A baby's lungs and brain mature late in pregnancy. Compared to a full-term baby, an infant born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation is more likely to have problems with:
It can be hard to pinpoint the date your baby was conceived. Being off by just a week or two can result in a premature birth. This may make a difference in your baby's health. Keep this in mind when scheduling a c-section.
Other risks for the baby
Women who have c-sections are less likely to breastfeed than women who have vaginal deliveries. This may be because they are uncomfortable from the surgery or have less time with the baby in the hospital. If you are planning to have a cesarean section and want to breastfeed, talk to your provider about what can be done to help you and your baby start breastfeeding as soon as you can.
Risks for the mother
A few women have one or more of these complications after a c-section:
A very small number of women who have c-sections die. Death is rare, but it is more likely with cesarean than with vaginal delivery.
If a woman who has had a cesarean section becomes pregnant again, she is at increased risk of:
Both of these conditions can lead to severe bleeding during labor and delivery, endangering mother and baby. The risk increases with the number of pregnancies.
Every pregnancy is different. If you are considering a planned c-section for medical reasons or are interested in asking that your baby be delivered by c-section, talk with the health care provider who will deliver your baby. Carefully consider the risks and benefits for your baby and yourself. These questions may be useful when you speak to your provider.
If your provider recommends delivery before 39 weeks: