How many c-sections can a woman have?


baby delivery


When I go in to deliver Baby 13 it will be my sixth caesarean section.  Opting for a caesarean was never something I would have ever voluntarily done.  I much preferred – prefer – a normal labour to the sun-roof eviction of my baby and this was how my babies had always been delivered.  Always, that is, until the labour of my seventh child.

Labour was progressing as it always had.  I was sucking for dear life on the gas and air, occasionally gnawing away on the mouthpiece for any relief that action might possibly give.  My waters had broken and the monitor was beeping away until the beeping from baby’s heart was no longer as frequent as it should have been.  It was less than fifteen minutes between the time when the midwife explained to me that the baby’s heartbeat was dangerously low and there was no time to waste.  I needed an emergency caesarean and I needed it right now. 

Dozy and indolent one moment, then writhing in pain the next, I had to force myself to concentrate on what I was being told.  The consent form was held up in front of me but I could barely hold the pen to sign.  The dash along the page had to do.  The baby’s heartbeat was now dangerously, dangerously low.

The next part went by in a haze, I don’t know if I remember the journey into theatre, but I do remember feeling torn.  ‘I don’t want to do this!’ I cried, which was shortly followed by a begging ‘Save my baby!  Please!’

The rush to prep me was obvious and I remember being reassured at every step.  I felt strange as a screen went up across my chest and as the pushing, pulling and rummaging around went on in my belly.  I was feeling woozy and detached until suddenly a scrawny little thing was held up over the screen – a little like the scene from the Lion King only with a less majestic sparrow-like pink baby screaming his contempt at the sudden evacuation he was forced to undertake.  I was sore and knocked for six, but our baby was safe and that, I told myself, was the main thing.

When I fell pregnant again I knew I didn’t want to opt for a c-section so a VBAC was agreed.  Once again, however, things didn’t go to plan and Oliver’s heart rate started dipping.  It then continued to dip until persevering was no longer an option.  It was another rush into theatre for a second caesarean.  The age gap between Patrick and Oliver was 23 months.

When I fell pregnant with our next child I was told immediately that after two caesareans the hospital strongly recommended c-sections thereon in.  The recommendation was so strong in fact, that it didn’t seem to offer an alternative.  And so that is what I reluctantly resigned myself to.  15 months after Oliver was born, Joseph was delivered by c-section number three.

I remember being discharged two days after Joseph’s delivery.  I said my usual leaving line of ‘See you next year!’ and the midwife within earshot looked at me with utter dismay.  ‘No!’ she told me quite firmly.  ‘You can not have any more children after three sections.’  She knew nothing about me or my history yet spoke with certain authority.

After that came two more pregnancies – the twins in 2011 (an age gap of 13 months between them and the previous pregnancy), and Isobel 13 months after that in 2012- and delivery by (televised) c-section for each of them.  The number of people who have since searched and found this site with the terms ‘how many c-sections has Tania Sullivan had?’ is remarkable, and the number of people who have contacted me to ask how many sections a woman can safely have is just as amazing.  After all, I am no authority but I am, I suppose, a little unusual.

It is because I am no authority that I am going to give an answer which will certainly disappoint.  If you are looking to me to say, ‘It’s fine!  Have a third/fourth/fifth – I did and I’m fine!’ then I’m sorry, I can’t.  I am not a medic, and more to the point I am not your medic.  I do not know your history and I do not know your story.  My answer to whether you should have another pregnancy/c-section is ‘Ask the right person.’

Many people have expressed concern regarding my repeated sections.  However, be reassured that I do have post-op appointments with my consultant.  This is the same consultant who has looked after me since my pregnancy with my fourth child, and who has personally carried out the c-sections for my last two pregnancies.  She literally does know me and my obstetric history inside-out and I trust her implicitly.  If there were any life-threatening or even seriously disabling risk to me or any future baby she would tell me without hesitation.  She is scrupulously honest as to any risks I have which of course are greater now than they were with a first section; for example, there is an increase in the possibility of nicking into my bladder, and there is also the obvious case of more scar tissue to cut through.  I have been extremely fortunate in that I have never had any serious problems or issues in any pregnancy, delivery or recovery.   Yet we both know that each time a baby is handed to me could well be the last time before I hear the words, ‘no more now.’

These things depend on so many factors.  So many factors for me, and so many factors for you.  What may be an issue for one of us may not for the other and so whatever my own body has been able to undertake and recover quickly and well from may not apply to anyone else.

Most hospitals state that three caesareans are the maximum they would recommend but, as my consultant explained, it is not due to an increase in risks but because a majority of women do not have more than three c-sections at the very most.  Therefore, there is not enough evidence or knowledge to provide enough information on higher numbers of repeated sections.  This is where my personal experience and hospital notes come in very handy for training students, as we can provide another side of obstetric matters not often seen.

If you have any questions or concerns please do make an appointment with your own obstetric consultant in order to talk them out directly.  One worth their weight in gold will not scaremonger but will voice any concerns they may have, will provide you with the full facts and will, once they have armed you with all relevant information which applies to you and your situation directly, will respect your intelligence enough to leave any final decision to you.











26 thoughts on “How many c-sections can a woman have?

  1. This old goat had 9 c-sections! Oldest 21 and youngest is 3! Everyone says “how did your doctor allow it?” My answer, trust in God and what is the doctor going to say “go home and forget you are pregnant?” I am very blessed.
    The Garden Goat

    1. I have only had four. But I remind people Ethel Kennedy had 10 and this was back in the day when they cut you like they were gutting you: no muscle-avoiding bikini cut for her. I don’t underestimate that surgery has its dangers but life has dangers: you don’t half-live it because of that.

  2. I have also had 9 c-sections! First was an emergency low heart rate and all others were just because the first was a vertical incision.

  3. 6 c-sections! 9 c-sections! that is amazing. Well done ladies. You truely are all blessed. Just goes to show that every pregnancy and every delivery should be taken on it’s own merits, each very individual. I’ve never had a c-section but I think women are lucky there is an alternative to safely get our babies here if the need arises.

    1. Absolutely right that each person and pregnancy is different. Guidelines are one thing but everyone is different. For some it may mean the one section is more than enough, for others it may be many more than the recommendations.

  4. Different angle but reminded me of my last pregnancy/birth when I was having my sixth child and wanted my third home birth. The consultant I ‘had’ to see as I am a ‘high risk’ simply due to how many babies I have had point blank refused to allow me to have a H.B. and wrote in big letters ‘must deliver in Hospital in my notes ! She didn’t know me wouldn’t listen to my opinion and research into the subject and just talked to me like I was a complete fool. Needless to say I changed consultant who didn’t bat an eyelid and was quite happy to put in my notes that he didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t have one.
    Take care Tania x

  5. I’ve had 7 csections so far. My doc told me my uterus was fine and I can have more if I want. I don’t hear it often that someone has had more than I….glad to hear it 🙂

  6. I have had 5 c sections and would love to have another, had a nurse who gave me ‘ the risks’ talk and have you considered having tubes tied? but surgeon never said not to have no more? Its nice to know there are women having more despite the risks, maybe if i can persuade hubby I may have number 6, if the lord blesses me with another child…. fingers crossed :o)

    1. If the nurse gave a general risks talk rather than the risks according to your personal history and situation I’d really recommend going for a one-to-one personal appointment with your consultant who should be able to give you more ‘tailored’ advice. Guidelines are only that, but everyone is different.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I have had 3 sections so far (!) – the first two were emergency, with the 2nd one being a very traumatic GA section. My 3rd was a planned section and after she was born the general consensus (from ‘other people’) has been not to have any more as 3 was the max. In fact, during my last section my consultant told me that I had healed superbly well internally and that another baby was not out of the question. At the time I shuddered and vowed never again, but now that she is 19 months old… I am facing a lot of negativity and presumed ‘you don’t want any more’ and yet I cannot say hand on heart that I don’t.I am scared about being told I can’t have any more but I will, thanks to your advice, book an appointment to discuss it. Thank you! We chatted on Twitter briefly and I plan to write about this, I will be linking to your fabulous blog!

    1. The comments from your last section are incredibly reassuring and so I don’t anticipate that you’ll receive any negativity from your consultant. Friends/family/midwives/everyone else may well be a different story though! I look forward to hearing how you get on and to reading your post.

  8. Very interesting reading all these comments, I have four beautiful children, my first was a horrific forceps delivery, I have gone on to have 3 elective c-sections the third almost a year ago, I was told by the surgeon after he had stitched me up that he advised against any more

  9. Hi Tania , please may I ask a personal question? Obviously I will not take offence if you don’t wish to answer, and please I’m not asking this as an insult in anyway I’m just genuinely interested as I follow your posts all the time. My question is having noticed how close together your babies are, have you always planned a big family, or do you not believe in birth control ect.
    I have 5 kids and always wanted a big family.
    Yet the hassle I got from family and doctors was untrue, everyone kept going on doctors included don’t you think you’ve had enough now, and my pregnancys were met with disdain instead of excitement.
    It robbed me of my joy and made me want to hide telling ppl I was pregnant until I had no choice, I had to have c section with number 5 due to problems, then a few months later ended up having to have a radical hysterectomy due to my health, which left me devastated as I so wanted more kids yet ppls reactions to my saying this were shocking, saying how ungrateful I was as some ppl didn’t have any so I didn’t have a right to be upset. I think your so lucky to have a large family and that they all have each other. I personally think large families are great, and would have carried on myself if I hadn’t had to have surgery and regardless of what others may think I do feel so grateful for the children I have, yet also feel robbed of the ones I didn’t have. I’ve had two miscarriages as well and to think I could have had 7 kids really upsets me as I so wanted more. Anyway I asked my question and really hope I’ve not offende you as it certainly wasn’t meant too as truly think your great. Best wishes Sharon ..

  10. Thank you! I’ve had 4 cesareans and a vbac. Two of those cesareans were after I was 35. I think doctors around here rarely see five children anymore much less this many cesareans. Except after the first one, I’ve been offered a tubal ligation (NOT happening) or told straight-out not to have anymore surgeries, but I’ve been fine and the babies were all just perfect. 🙂

  11. I am currently pregnant with number #2,and am really hoping to have a vbac. But I am also considering a second (this time elective) C-section as my anxiety from my last birth is pretty bad. But one of my biggest fears is that if I have another C-section, I won’t be able to have a big family. Your story (and those in the comments) have been such a consolation to my fears. Thanks!

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