10 Ways First-Time Moms Can Avoid a C-Section Delivery
A cesarean section was once a relatively rare way to deliver a baby. But today, almost 1 in 3 pregnant women give birth in an operating room. While a C-section may be the safest way to deliver under high-risk circumstances, research indicates that this major surgical procedure is often unnecessary and actually poses a higher risk to the health of many mothers and babies.
If you’re pregnant for the first time, here are 10 things you can do throughout your pregnancy that can help reduce the need for a C-section.
During your pregnancy
Don’t go hungry, but try not to overdo it.
Many U.S. women gain more weight during pregnancy than is recommended. Ask your provider what your weight gain goal should be, and do your best to eat a moderate, nutritious diet throughout your pregnancy.
Get plenty of exercise.
You can safely engage in regular, moderate-intensity physical activity during pregnancy, although you should always consult with your provider before starting a new exercise program.
Take childbirth classes.
You wouldn't run a marathon without training for it, so why head into childbirth without adequate preparation? Virtua offers a wide variety of classes, and you should aim to enroll by your 7th month.
If the baby is breech, take him or her for a spin.
If your baby is breech (feet first) and you’re at least 36 weeks pregnant, you may be a candidate for a procedure called an external cephalic version (ECV). ECV involves applying pressure to the mother's abdomen to turn the baby to a head-down presentation.
Minimize stress with yoga and meditation. Discuss your fears and concerns with your provider, and remember that you were born to give birth. Trust in what your body can do.
When you’re near the end of pregnancy
Avoid labor induction.
Women who undergo labor induction have higher C-section rates than those who wait for it to begin spontaneously. If you are less than 41 weeks of pregnancy, avoid the temptation to have your labor induced unless your provider has identified a medical reason for it.
Consider a doula or childbirth coach.
A doula is trained to provide non-medical labor support. Studies show that using a doula can decrease your risk of C-section. If you can’t afford to pay a doula, there are some who volunteer this service. Otherwise, a been-there-done-that, supportive friend can make a wonderful labor coach.
Consider waiting on that epidural.
Epidural anesthesia is the most popular method of pain relief during labor. Once an epidural is given, continuous fetal monitoring and IV fluids are required.
Be prepared for the possibility of a long labor.
For many first-time mothers, it can take hours to deliver a baby. It’s natural to become impatient as you anticipate the opportunity to hold your baby. However, your doctor or nurse midwife will do all in their power to make your labor experience a happy and comfortable one. Keep in mind that early labor (when your cervix is less than 6 cm dilated) can sometimes last for more than 20 hours, and it’s normal for some women to push for up to three hours.
Once again, relax.
Remember, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 to40 completed weeks. By relaxing and waiting to give birth spontaneously, and then taking your time during what may be a long labor, you give your baby the time he or she needs to get fully ready for life outside the womb. Think positively, remind yourself that you’re in safe, experienced hands, and stay focused and strong.
Updated December 13, 2021