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Caesarean section is a procedure where a baby is delivered by cutting through the front wall of the abdomen to open the womb.
Approximately 20% of babies born in the UK are delivered by caesarean section because there may be an urgent or potential medical risk to mother or baby.
A caesarean section is indicated when there is a significant risk to the health of the mother or baby if the operation is not performed at a given time.
It may be performed as:
- a planned procedure, where the medical need for the operation becomes apparent during pregnancy;
- an emergency procedure, where a situation arises during labour that calls for urgent delivery of the baby; or
- an elective procedure, on the basis of personal choice rather than as a result of medical risk.
The principal clinical reasons for the medical decision to perform Caesarean section are situations involving danger to the unborn baby, failure to progress with the labour, breech (bottom-first) presentation, and cases where the mother has had a previous Caesarean section.