Skip to content

    Health & Pregnancy

    Font Size

    C-Section No Cure-All for Problem Births

    For Prolonged or Halted Labor, C-Section Not Clearly Better Than Instrument Delivery
    WebMD Health News

    Sept. 2, 2004 -- Women who have emergency C-sections during difficult deliveries report fewer urinary and short-term sexual problems than women who have forceps- or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery.

    But emergency C-sections are much more difficult than planned C-sections, and they carry risks of their own, a British study shows. Moreover, women who had instrument-assisted deliveries say they'd do it again rather than have C-sections.

    Researchers Rachel E. Liebling, MD, of Royal United Hospital in Bath, England, and colleagues therefore argue that doctors should continue to offer women a choice between emergency C-sections and instrument-assisted delivery.

    "We would support the continued practice of instrumental vaginal delivery," they write in the July issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

    Difficult Birth, Difficult Choice

    A normal vaginal delivery is the goal for most pregnant women. But labor sometimes comes to a halt too soon. At this point, the mother-to-be and her doctor have two choices: emergency C-section to deliver the baby, or assisted delivery using a forceps or a vacuum device attached to the head of the fetus.

    In professional hands, all of these methods are safe and effective. All are equally likely to result in a healthy baby. But all result in some injury to the woman. Which is least harmful to the mother? Liebling and colleagues followed up on 393 women who had gone through prolonged labor. Doctors delivered 209 babies via C-section and 184 babies via instruments.

    Six weeks later and a year later, Liebling's team asked the women how they were doing. After six weeks, the women who underwent C-sections were nearly eight times less likely to have urinary incontinence. After a year, this symptom was still three times less frequent in the women who underwent emergency C-sections.

    Nearly 60% of the women reported at least one symptom of bowel dysfunction, but there was no significant difference between groups. However, women who underwent instrumental delivery were more likely to have constipation after one year.

    Six weeks after delivery, pain during sex was about three times more likely in the instrument-assisted group. However, over time this became less frequent for these women and more frequent for the women who underwent C-sections. And emergency C-sections were twice as likely to result in sexual dysfunction as planned, non-emergency C-sections.

    Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

    Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
    what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
    slideshow fetal development
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    What Causes Bipolar
    Woman trying on dress in store
    pregnant woman
    Woman looking at pregnancy test
    calendar and baby buggy
    dark chocolate squares