Considering Cesarean Birth

A cesarean birth can be a life-saving procedure, but it can also have long-term health effects. Every person needs information and support to decide if it’s the right choice for them.

  • C-sections may have both benefits and risks.
  • How techniques traditionally used by midwives and doulas can help safely reduce c-section rates.
  • How to start making a birth plan that supports you to achieve the birth that is right for you.
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Terms in this Chapter

the region of the body between the chest and the pelvis (also known as the belly)

Birth center

a home-like facility that is not a hospital where healthy people with low-risk pregnancies can give birth in the midwifery model of care

Birth plan

a plan listing the birthing individual’s preferences during labor, such as medical interventions, options for pain relief, and labor positions

Birthing person

the person who will give birth to the baby. See also birthing person; pregnant person

Care plan

a plan for a person’s pregnancy, labor/birth, and/or postpartum period that lists services, tests, education, and interventions that will be provided and incorporates the birthing individual’s preferences for their care and their baby’s care


a medicine that is vaginally inserted to help dilate the cervix for induced labor. It is chemically similar to prostaglandins, a hormone made in the body as it prepares for labor and childbirth

Cesarean birth

a surgical procedure (used instead of vaginal birth) to deliver a baby by cutting into the abdomen and the uterus. Also known as a C-section

Culturally aligned care

care that honors and integrates a person’s cultural identity and preferences, provided by people who share the culture or are knowledgeable and respectful of the culture


to open. Typically the birthing person’s cervix will begin dilating in the last weeks of pregnancy; in labor the cervix will dilate to about 10 cm to let the baby out.


a trained professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support before, during and shortly after birth (birth doula) or in the postpartum period (postpartum doula). Doulas with full-spectrum training may also support people during and after pregnancy loss or abortion. Doulas do not have medical training, are not medically licensed, and do not provide medical advice.


to intentionally start the birthing process by using medications or devices instead of your body’s and baby’s physiological processes, to begin labor. An induced labor is also called induction.

Group care model

prenatal care in a group setting with other people who are at a similar stage of pregnancy. In this model, you can learn from and build relationships with other expecting parents who are going through a similar experience.


a medicine injected through the birthing person’s back into a space near the spine to numb the pain of childbirth. Once an epidural is given, the birthing individual generally does not have feeling in the lower half of their body.


happening during pregnancy or related to pregnancy

Integrated model

a model of care where midwives and doctors work closely together for care of patients with both low- and high-risk pregnancies.

Labor position

a way to position yourself during labor or to give birth, such as standing, side-lying, squatting, and kneeling


making milk in the breasts, and/or feeding a baby from the chest.


a licensed healthcare professional trained to provide reproductive and primary care including care during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. Midwives specialize in low-risk pregnancies and well-person care, and may collaborate with physicians and other healthcare providers in the care of people who need advanced medical care or surgery.


an acronym that stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a location in some hospitals where babies who need special medical attention can receive it


the hormone produced by your body that helps labor progress, reduces blood loss after birth, and is involved in bonding and lactation after birth


a medication, chemically the same as the hormone oxytocin, used to cause or strengthen contractions at the time of childbirth


before birth / during pregnancy


a trained healthcare professional who diagnoses patients and provides treatment. Includes doctors, midwives, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants.


speaking up for yourself, your needs and your desires so you can make informed decisions and have your decisions respected

Skin-to-skin contact

a practice where the newborn baby is dried and placed on the birthing individual’s chest right after labor, without clothing or a blanket in-between


an acronym that is short for “vaginal birth after cesarean”

Birth worker

someone who is professionally trained to be a resource for information about pregnancy and childbirth who also cares for the well-being of pregnant people; a general term that usually includes midwives, doctors, and nurses who care for birthing people as well as supportive team members such as doulas or lactation consultants

Cord clamping

putting a clamp on the baby’s umbilical cord after birth before cutting the cord to separate the baby from the placenta. Also known as umbilical cord clamping.

Informed consent

a process where the birthing individual gives permission or chooses a decision based on the principle that they have all the information they need from their healthcare provider prior to making that decision. Informed consent involves a discussion around the benefits, risks and alternatives of procedures or medical actions you are asked to agree to.

Informed refusal

a process where the birthing individual refuses treatment or services based on the principle that they have all the information they need from their healthcare provider prior to making that decision


IV is short for “intravenous” which means in your veins. Tubes or needles can be put into your veins at medical facilities to provide food, fluids or medicine when needed.


a way of being that helps you slow down, observe your emotions, and be more aware of your thoughts and feelings.


OB is short for obstetrician and GYN is short for gynecologist. An obstetrician is a healthcare professional who delivers babies and provides pregnancy-related care, while a gynecologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in vaginal care and reproductive health


after childbirth

Shared decision making

when a provider and a patient work together to make a health care decision that is best for the patient. The optimal decision takes into account evidence-based information about options, the provider’s knowledge and experience, and the patient’s values and preferences.