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RCOG release: Choosing to have a caesarean section

News 17 July 2015

The risks and benefits of a ‘planned’ or ‘elective’ caesarean section are discussed in new Patient Information published today (17 July) by the RCOG.

For women with a complicated pregnancy a caesarean section may be necessary for the health of either the mother or child, or both. However, for a variety of reasons, some women choose to have their baby by ‘planned’ or ‘elective’ caesarean section even when there is no ‘medical’ need to do so.

The Patient Information discusses some of the reasons why a woman may be thinking about wanting a caesarean birth and describes the risks and benefits compared to a vaginal delivery.

Cath Broderick, Chair of the RCOG Women’s Network said:

“Women thinking about delivery by a planned caesarean section can be reassured that most women recover well and have healthy babies – but there are risks to both mother and baby and it takes longer to get back to normal. Having a caesarean section may also make future births more complicated.”

Geeta Kumar, Chair of the RCOG Patient Information Committee said:

“The reasons some women may be thinking about delivery by elective caesarean section can be very varied, including fear of having a complicated vaginal birth or of physical damage to their bodies, having had a previous traumatic experience, or wanting to control timing of the birth. Talking to a midwife, obstetrician and anaesthetist may help reassure them about the process of giving birth.

“It is important that women fully understand the benefits and risks of caesarean section and how these apply to their individual circumstances. Once a shared decision has been reached, preparations and contingencies can be put into place to ensure the best outcome for mother and baby.”

Ends

For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk

10 things you need to know about planned caesarean section

  1. Most women in the UK give birth vaginally, recover well and have healthy babies
  2. For some women with a complicated pregnancy a caesarean section may be necessary for the health of either the mother, child or both
  3. Most women who have elective (planned) caesarean sections also recover well and have healthy babies – but it may take longer to get back to normal and impact future pregnancies
  4. Reasons for thinking about an elective caesarean section are individual and varied – you should talk honestly about your feelings and concerns to your midwife and other members of your healthcare team
  5. Serious risks to the mother from having a caesarean section are rare but include
       a.    Wound infection
       b.    Blood clots in legs/lungs (deep venous thrombosis/pulmonary embolism)
       c.    Heavy blood loss
       d.    A longer stay in hospital if complications develop
  6. Serious complications become more common with repeated caesarean sections
  7. Risks to the mother of having three or more caesarean sections include
       a.    Damage to bowel, bladder, or ureter (the tube connecting the kidneys to the bladder)
       b.    Heavy bleeding which may lead to an  emergency hysterectomy if the bleeding cannot be stopped
       c.    Placenta accreta – where the placenta does not come away after the birth of the baby
       d.    Stillbirth risk is increased for future pregnancies
  8. There are also small risks to the baby with caesarean birth which include
       a.    Temporary breathing difficulties
       b.    Being accidentally cut
       c.    Developing asthma in childhood or being overweight
  9. Complications can also happen with a vaginal birth, especially with first births and intervention may be necessary such as
       a.    Forceps or ventouse - to help delivery
       b.    Vaginal tearing
       c.    Emergency caesarean
  10. If you go into labour spontaneously before your planned date you will be offered the chance to deliver vaginally – but you may still be able to go ahead with the caesarean

Notes

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The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists - Bringing to life the best in women’s health care. The RCOG is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.

For more information please see: NHS Choices advice on Caesarean Section

Other relevant Patient Information