Most women in the UK give birth vaginally, recover well and have healthy babies.
Women who have a planned caesarean section will also recover well and have healthy babies. However, there are risks for both you and your baby and it may take longer to get back to normal after your baby is born. Having a caesarean section also makes future births more complicated. Doctors and midwives will not recommend a caesarean section unless it is necessary for medical reasons.
A caesarean may be recommended as a planned (elective) procedure or done in an emergency if it's thought a vaginal birth is too risky. Planned caesareans are usually done from the 39th week of pregnancy.
What is a caesarean section?
A caesarean section, or C-section, is an operation to deliver your baby through a cut made in your tummy and womb. The cut is usually made across your tummy, just below your bikini line.
A caesarean is a major operation that carries a number of risks, so it's usually only done if it's the safest option for you and your baby.
Around 1 in 4 pregnant women in the UK has a caesarean birth.
Asking for a caesarean
Some women choose to have a caesarean for non-medical reasons.
If you ask your midwife or doctor for a caesarean when there are not medical reasons, they'll explain the overall benefits and risks of a caesarean to you and your baby compared with a vaginal birth.
If you're anxious about giving birth, you should be offered the chance to discuss your anxiety with a healthcare professional who can offer support during your pregnancy and labour.
If after discussing all the risks and hearing about all the support on offer you still feel that a vaginal birth is not an acceptable option, you should be offered a planned caesarean. If your doctor is unwilling to perform the operation, they should refer you to a doctor who will.
More information about choosing to have a caesarean section is available on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.