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.
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. They're usually performed after the 38th week of pregnancy.
A caesarean may be carried out because:
- your baby is in the breech position (feet first) and your doctor has been unable to turn them by applying gentle pressure to your tummy, or you would prefer they didn't try this
- you have a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia)
- you have pregnancy-related high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia)
- you have certain infections, such as a first genital herpes infection occurring late in pregnancy or untreated HIV
- your baby isn't getting enough oxygen and nutrients – sometimes this may mean the baby needs to be delivered immediately
- your labour isn't progressing or there's excessive vaginal bleeding
If there's time to plan the procedure, your midwife or doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of a caesarean compared with a vaginal birth.