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C-sections: The real deal

Almost one in three American women delivers her baby via cesarean section, or C-section, today. It can be a lifesaving procedure when the health of the baby or mom is in jeopardy before or during labor.

But many misconceptions are circulating out there. Here’s the truth behind some of the buzz:

The rumor: C-sections produce unhealthy babies.
The real deal: Most babies born via C-section are perfectly healthy and are no different from their peers who arrive the old-fashioned way. However, the risk of complications for your baby is higher with C-sections than it is with vaginal birth. The most common complication is breathing problems, especially if the C-section is elective and performed before 39 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s lungs may not be fully mature.

The rumor: You won’t be able to breastfeed after a C-section.
The real deal: You can breastfeed and bond with your baby. Specific positions, such as the football hold and side-lying position, allow you to breastfeed your infant without having him or her resting uncomfortably on your incision.

The rumor: C-sections limit your family size.
The real deal: This may be true for some women who want large families. Some experts believe that the majority of women can safely have up to three C-sections. The reason? Each time you undergo a C-section, the risk of surgical complications (infection, heavy bleeding) increases. Repeat C-sections can also cause problems for later pregnancies, such as placenta accreta (where the placenta implants too deeply and firmly to the uterine wall) and placenta previa (when the placenta partially obstructs or completely blocks the cervix opening). If you’ve already had three C-sections and are contemplating getting pregnant again, talk with your healthcare provider about the risks.

The rumor: If you have one C-section, you’ll automatically have another.
The real deal: This isn’t always the case. Of course, sometimes there are medical reasons why a C-section may the best option for each of your pregnancies—for example, there’s a problem with the shape of your pelvis, you’re having multiples (twins, triplets or more) or you have a serious health condition. But for women with no known problems and only one previous C-section with a low, horizontal incision, vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) may be an option. Up to 80 percent of women who try VBAC successfully deliver vaginally, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. However, not every healthcare provider performs VBACs, so you’ll need to discuss the option with yours. Although rare, VBACs pose a risk of uterine rupture.