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Birth Dilemma: Doctors weigh pros and cons of cesareans

Doctors traditionally counseled women who had had a cesarean section against delivering vaginally, even though a mother's recovery time is longer after a cesarean birth. In 1981, only 3 percent of women in the United States who had delivered by cesarean later attempted a vaginal birth. That number jumped to 28 percent by 1996, after doctors suggested that these women give vaginal birth a try under careful monitoring. But studies hinted at increased complications from labor and vaginal birth in these women, and the number fell back to 13 percent by 2002.

A new study of women with a previous cesarean finds that those attempting a vaginal delivery do indeed face a risk of uterine rupture during labor, whereas the chance of that happening in a planned cesarean is practically nil. Uterine rupture is extremely rare in women delivering vaginally who haven't had a cesarean.

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