Pregnant woman and partner on couch

Giving birth by C-section

Private: Daniela Anne Carusi, MD, MSc
Contributor Daniela Anne Carusi, MD, MSc

For some women, vaginal birth is just not possible due to the risks to the mother and baby.

What are some medical reasons for needing a c-section?

The most common conditions during pregnancy that require cesarean birth (also called C-section) include:

While the need for a C-section initially may be disappointing to an an expectant mother, planning for the birth can make the experience more positive.

Obstetrician Dr. Daniela Carusi, director of Surgical Obstetrics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, offers advice for women who are preparing to give birth by C-section.

How are C-sections scheduled?

In cases with high risk of bleeding or uterine rupture with contractions, the cesarean is typically scheduled several weeks before the due date. This is to minimize the risk that the mother will go into labor before the scheduled cesarean.

Should patients attend childbirth classes for a schedule birth?

Yes, childbirth classes that specialize in cesarean delivery are available. They outline care guidelines for mothers and baby care tips and techniques for use during the days and weeks following cesarean delivery.

What is a family-centered C-section?

Also called the gentle C-section, the family-centered C-section includes the use of clear draping for the mom to view the delivery and assists the parents with skin-to-skin contact with the baby in the operating room. Midwives and doulas may be present to provide support for the mother and family and facilitate the family-centered cesarean.

What is c-section recovery like?

After the c-section, moms typically stay in the hospital for four nights before going home. They should not drive for 2 weeks and should not lift more than 10 to 15 pounds for 4 weeks after delivery. This can be a challenge, especially for moms with toddlers at home. Extended paternal leave or having another family member on hand can be a great asset to moms in the month following cesarean delivery.

How can you plan ahead for complex deliveries?

Women with a history of extensive surgery or high-risk conditions (such as placenta accreta) should consider a tertiary care center for prenatal care and delivery and discuss this with their primary provider.

These centers are staffed by specialists and subspecialists who collaborate to provide expert care during pregnancy and delivery and have access to advanced technology for complex surgical procedures. The Brigham, for example, is home to one of few hybrid operating rooms in the New England region. This hybrid operating room may be needed in certain complicated deliveries, including those affected by placenta accreta.


Private: Daniela Anne Carusi, MD, MSc
Daniela Anne Carusi, MD, MSc

Daniela Carusi, MD, MSc, is Director of Surgical Obstetrics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School.

Before you go,

If you’re thinking about pregnancy, managing a pregnancy complication or looking for tips on newborn care, our experts can help support you at every step in your journey. Read more pregnancy and childbirth articles.