Cesarean Sections

12th July 2021

A cesarean section is a surgical operation for delivering a baby through a lower abdominal incision. It has a long history, shrouded in mystery. It is named after Julius Caesar who was said to be delivered in this way – but that is almost certainly untrue as his mother Aurelia lived until Caesar was an older adult and such an operation done then (10BC) would of course have been unsurvivable. Fortunately, in recent times and developed nations, cesarean sections are mostly a very safe procedure.



Each April is Cesarean Section Awareness Month. This is an ‘awareness’ month started in 1982 by a grassroots group called International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN). Its instigators and drive are midwifery lead and its aim is to focus on all topics surrounding cesarean sections – most particularly reducing the number of ‘preventable’ cesarean sections, supporting recovery from cesarean sections and advocating for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC)


This blog is not specifically concerning ICAN or in any way political but represents an opportunity to deliver objective information to our community about cesarean sections, in order to help.



The rate of cesarean section birth is very variable worldwide. The reasons for this are complex and not fully known. However, these differences between nations are due to many factors and include maternal age, IVF, maternal medical conditions, facilities available and private insurance! As an example, the cesarean section rate in Brazil is well above 50% whilst in Central and Western Africa it is less than 5%. The rate in Australia is between 30-35% which is similar to the USA. In Albany we have a cesarean section rate of just over 30%, which has been consistent for many years now.



There are 2 broad reasons why someone would have a cesarean section. They are:

  1. As an emergency or non-elective cesarean section
  2. Or as a planned procedure or elective cesarean section


An emergency or non-elective cesarean section is usually a cesarean section done in labour for one of two reasons:

  • First is ‘fetal distress’ – where the unborn baby has signs of significant distress during labour, and it is decided that the safest option is to deliver surgically.
  • The other is where the baby basically gets ‘stuck’ or an obstructed labour. Here despite many hours of strong labour the cervix fails to dilate and/or baby does not descend deep into the pelvis. This is usually due to the position of the baby’s head (back of baby’s head against back of mum or ‘posterior’ position)



We generally encourage not lifting anything heavier than your baby and no driving for the first few weeks. The exact time will vary from person to person and cesarean to cesarean. It is important to get lots of help from your husband/partner, family and friends.



A common question is that is it possible to have anormal vaginal delivery after having had a prior cesarean section. The short answer is yes. However, it is complex, and your doctor will discuss it with you at length if it is something you would like to try the next time. There are risks and precautions – some universal and some relating to why the previous cesarean section was done and where your next delivery will be. Overall, the success rate for VBAC in Albany currently is approximately 30%

Ultimately a cesarean section is a common way in which a baby can be delivered safely and healthily for both the baby and mother. This is the most important thing to remember, and mums should be well supported and cared for through this by medical and midwifery staff as well as by husband/partner, family, friends and society.




This article has been written by Dr David Ward

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