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Know Pros, Cons Before Deciding On C-Section Births

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A recent French study suggests cesarean sections triple a woman's risk of death in childbirth when compared with vaginal delivery. The risk is still low, and the c-section may be the best option for some women, but many doctors want their patients to be aware of the risks.

Benjamin Mullenix was born Sept. 12, 2006, at 10 pounds and 2½ ounces. He is Jessica and Brian Mullenix's second child. Both came by c-section at Rex Hospital.

With the first child, Jessica was not dilating fast enough. She said her daughter was in distress and she was tired and a little disappointed "just because you don't plan on it. You plan on the whole pushing and deep breathing," Jessica said.

With Benjamin, his size and Jessica's discomfort led the couple to plan a c-section a few weeks ahead of time. Jessica said she was more relaxed than she was with her first cesarean.

Jessica's doctor, Anita Hudson-Fraley, reminds patients that c-section births are major surgery. She said today's surgeries are safe, but there are risks, mostly to the mother.

"We try and protect them against the risks and complications by giving them antibiotics during the surgery, keep their legs from blood clots and controlling the bleeding," Hudson-Fraley said.

Hudson-Fraley discourages cesarean births for expectant parents who simply like the convenience of a scheduled birth. She looks for certain indications before recommending the surgery, such as the baby being in a breech position, when the head is pointed up instead of down.

Another reason for a c-section birth may be that the mother may not be dilating fast enough and the baby may show signs of distress.

"Some women have had a very bad vaginal delivery in the past and do not want to repeat that process, so we'll offer cesarean section," Hudson-Fraley said.

Jessica Mullenix said she may have bypassed the work of pushing and deep breathing, but now she's working on recovering from surgery and keeping her incision clean while it heals in order to avoid infection.

Recovery time and the hospital stay is longer with c-section births, which make up about 20 percent of births in the United States.