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Health & Pregnancy

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Are Repeat C-Sections Safer Than Natural Birth?

Natural Birth After a C-Section Shown to Be Slightly Riskier Than Repeat Surgery, but Complication Rate Low for Both

Uterine Rupture Linked to Repeat C-Section

In a related study, researchers in the U.K. found that repeat C-sections raised the risk for uterine rupture, a rare but very serious pregnancy complication.

Risk was highest among women who had two or more prior C-sections and those who had repeat C-sections less than 12 months after the last C-section.

Of the 159 uterine ruptures identified in the study, 139 occurred among women who had previously had a C-section.

Both studies appear in the March issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

Ob-gyn professor F. Gary Cunningham, MD, says while the risks are small, no method of childbirth is risk-free. Cunningham is a distinguished chair in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In 2010, he chaired a panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health to explore the reasons for the decline in VBAC deliveries in the U.S.

In the mid-1990s, about 1 in 4 deliveries following a C-section were vaginal, compared to around 1 in 10 today, Cunningham tells WebMD.

The panel concluded that VBAC was a safe alternative to repeat C-section for women who had had a single C-section delivery.

“No matter what delivery method is used, there are going to be some rare bad outcomes,” Cunningham says. “But if a woman knows the risks and is a candidate for a trial of labor, she should be able to have one.”

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