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Reasons for a Cesarean Birth

Cesarean births can be planned. But in most cases, a cesarean is not expected. A cesarean may be needed because of concerns about the baby, the mother, or the baby’s passage through the birth canal. Listed below are some of the reasons you may have a cesarean.

Baby in womb
Poor fit
Baby in womb
Wrong position
Baby in womb
More than one baby

  • A poor fit. The baby’s head is poorly positioned or too large. This may prevent the baby from fitting through the birth canal. This is known as cephalopelvic disproportion.

  • A baby in distress. The baby shows signs that he or she may not be able to stay healthy through the stresses of labor.

  • Labor fails to progress. The cervix does not efface (thin) and dilate (open) enough. As a result, the baby cannot descend into the birth canal.

  • The wrong position. The baby is in a breech position, with feet or buttocks descending first. Or the baby is lying sideways across the pelvis.

  • More than 1 baby. With 2 or more babies, 1 is more likely to be in the wrong position.

  • Problems with the placenta. In some cases, the placenta (the organ that nourishes the baby) is between the baby’s head and the birth canal (placenta previa). Or the placenta is pulling away from the uterus (placental abruption).

  • Maternal health problems. An ongoing health problem or a problem that arises during pregnancy can make a vaginal birth risky.

  • A baby with special needs. A health problem or birth defect can make labor or vaginal birth risky.

  • An active vaginal infection. Herpes and HIV infections could infect the baby during the passage through the birth canal.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Sacks, Daniel, MD, FACOG
Date Last Reviewed: 8/8/2015
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