When it comes to pregnancy and labor, "smooth sailing" aren't words you hear very often. There can be many bumps along the way, which can put you and your baby at risk. Often times, women have to undergo C-sections to have a safe delivery, either knowing in advance based on risks regarding other medical conditions or factors they have, or on the spot, when trouble arises and it's the only option. Yet, can having a C-section with each pregnancy be bad in terms of recovery? POPSUGAR spoke to an expert to find out just how many C-sections a woman can safely have.
What Is a C-Section?
"A C-section is a surgery in which your baby is removed directly from your belly through an incision in the abdominal wall and uterus instead of going through the birth canal," Nita Landry, MD, ob-gyn in California, and "Dr. Nita" on The Doctors, tells POPSUGAR.
What Are the Side Effects?
A C-section is a major surgery and can put you at risk for post-op complications such as infection or hemorrhaging, Dr. Nita says: "There is also a longer and potentially more painful recovery period that can be hard to manage while taking care of, bonding with, and breastfeeding your newborn." Not only are there increased physical side effects, but there can be lasting mental effects on women who undergo C-sections, too, so it might be helpful to speak to a counselor if you're struggling to cope afterward.
Are Multiple C-Sections Bad?
There is no definitive number deemed "too many" when it comes to C-sections, because all women respond to the surgery differently. "However, with each subsequent cesarean, the risk of a hemorrhage/blood transfusion and injury to other intra-abdominal organs, such as the bladder, and hysterectomy do increase," Dr. Nita explains. "As with any surgery, repeatedly entering through the abdomen during cesareans can cause it to develop adhesions, hernias, or separate from the stomach muscles."
Plus, note that vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is possible after one C-section, she says. "In some instances, your doctor might even agree that a vaginal delivery is safe after two C-sections." A VBAC is not recommended after having more than two, though, due to increased risk of uterine rupture during labor. So, in a sense, there is a cutoff.
"The increase in planned C-sections in recent years has led some people to believe it is easier and safer than vaginal birth," Dr. Nita says. "However, vaginal delivery is a safer option than C-section for low-risk pregnancies, and it involves a quicker recovery time."