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Health & Pregnancy

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The Truth About C-Sections

Pregnant and thinking about having a C-section? Learn about the risks, benefits, and recovery.

Rising Numbers continued...

"Women are not being educated on vaginal birth after C-section, or VBAC," Kriebs says. "And in fact, many institutions will simply not even allow this procedure after a woman as already had a C-section."

As a result, births that could have occurred "naturally" are being performed as C-sections, pushing the number even higher. In March 2010, an NIH advisory panel recommended that hospitals end bans on VBAC.

Risk also comes into play -- medical and legal, Kriebs says. More health care providers are turning to C-sections at the slightest hint of a complication during childbirth. "When a situation turns complicated during a delivery, today there is a greater tendency to perform a C-section to minimize the risk to the child," Kriebs says.

The number is also creeping upward because women are tapping into C-sections as a childbirth "option" more frequently.

"Women are worried that something will happen to their baby during labor, so maybe they opt for a C-section upfront," Economy says. "Or, they don't want to go through labor pain, because it is painful, and think they can handle the pain of surgery better because it's a controlled setting."

Age also plays into the expanding number of U.S. C-sections. Hoskins says that more women are delaying childbirth until they're older, and, as a result, are more likely to need a C-section; especially if they're over 40, because of the increased risk of complications in older moms.

Waiting until later in life to have children may also mean more need for fertility treatment, which could increase the chance of having twins. And that, in turn, makes a C-section more likely.

After the C-section

"Recovery from a C-section isn't easy," Economy says.

The typical hospital stay for a C-section is four days, compared to the two that new moms need after a vaginal birth, Economy says.

Immediately after the procedure is over, you'll still have a catheter in, the effects from the regional anesthesia will linger for a few hours -- which means you'll be numb from the waist down -- and you'll need narcotics for the pain.

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