Is a C-Section?
A cesarean section — more
commonly known as C-section — is the surgical delivery of a baby. It involves
one incision in the mother’s abdomen and another in the uterus.
It is a common procedure that is
used to deliver about 1 in 5 babies in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
C-sections are generally avoided
before 39 weeks of pregnancy so the child has proper time to develop in the
womb. Sometimes, however, complications arise and a C-section must be performed
prior to 39 weeks.
a C-Section Is Done
A C-section is typically
performed when complications from pregnancy make traditional vaginal birth
difficult, or puts the mother or child at risk. Sometimes C-sections are planned
early in the pregnancy, but they are most often performed when complications
arise during labor.
Reasons for a C-section delivery
- baby has
- baby’s head
is too big for the birth canal
- the baby is
coming out feet first (breech birth)
health problems, such as high blood pressure or unstable heart disease
- mother has
active genital herpes that could be transmitted to the baby
with the placenta, such as placental abruption or placenta previa
with the umbilical cord
oxygen supply to the baby
- the baby is
coming out shoulder first (transverse labor)
Risks of a C-Section
A C-section is becoming a more
common delivery type, but it is still a major surgery that carries risks for
both mother and child. The risks of a C-section include:
- blood clots
problems for the child, especially if done before 39 weeks of pregnancy
- increased risks
for future pregnancies
- injury to
the child during surgery
recovery time compared with vaginal birth
injury to other organs
You and your doctor will discuss
your birthing options before your due date. Your doctor will also be able to
determine if you or your baby are showing any signs of complications that would
require a C-section delivery.
to Prepare for a C-Section
If you and your doctor decide that
a C-section is the best option for delivery, your doctor will give you complete
instructions about what you can do to lower your risk of complications and have
a successful C-section.
As with any pregnancy, prenatal
appointments will involve many checkups, which will include blood tests and other
examinations to determine your health for the possibility of a C-section.
Your doctor will make sure to
record your blood type in case you need a blood transfusion during the surgery.
Blood transfusions are rarely needed during a C-section, but your doctor will
be prepared for any complications during the surgery.
Even if you aren’t planning to
have a C-section, you should always prepare for the unexpected. At prenatal
appointments with your doctor, discuss your risk factors for a C-section and
what you can do to lower them.
Make sure all of your questions
are answered, and that you understand what could happen if you need to have an
emergency C-section before your due date.
Because a C-section takes
additional time to recover from than normal birth, arranging to have an extra
set of hands around the house will be helpful. Not only will you be recovering
from surgery, but your new baby will need some attention as well.
a C-section Is Performed
Plan to stay in the hospital for
three to four days while you recover from your surgery.
Before the surgery, your abdomen
will be cleaned and you’ll be prepared for receiving intravenous (IV) fluids
into your arm. This allows doctors to administer fluids and any type of medications
you may need. You will also have a catheter put in to keep your bladder empty
during the surgery.
There are three types of
anesthesia offered to delivering mothers:
- spinal block: anesthesia
is injected directly into the sac that surrounds your spinal cord, thus numbing
the lower part of your body
- epidural: a common
anesthesia for both vaginal and C-section deliveries, anesthesia is injected
into your lower back outside the sac of the spinal cord
- general anesthesia: the
anesthesia that puts you into a painless sleep, and is usually reserved for
When you have been properly
medicated and numbed, your doctor will make an incision just above the pubic
hairline. This is typically horizontal across the pelvis. Later, the scar is usually
easily coverable, even, for example, in a bikini.
In emergency situations, the
incision may be vertical.
Once the incision into your
abdomen has been made and the uterus is exposed, your doctor will make an
incision into the uterus. This area will be covered during the procedure so you
won’t be able to see the procedure.
Your new baby will be removed
from your uterus after the second incision is made.
Your doctor will first tend to your
baby by clearing their nose and mouth of fluids and clamping and cutting the
umbilical cord. Your baby will then be given to hospital staff and they will
prepare your baby to be put into your arms.
Meanwhile, your doctor will
repair your uterus with dissolving stitches and close your abdominal incision
up After a C-Section
After your C-section, you and
your newborn will stay in the hospital for about three days. Immediately after
surgery, you will remain on an IV. This allows for adjusted levels of painkillers
to be delivered into your bloodstream while the anesthesia wears off.
Your doctor will encourage you to
get up and walk around. This can help prevent blood clots and constipation. A
nurse or doctor can teach you how to position your child for breast-feeding so
there’s no additional pain from the C-section incision area.
Your doctor will give you
recommendations for home care after the surgery, but you should generally
- take it easy
and rest, especially for the first few weeks
- use correct
posture to support your abdomen
- drink plenty
of fluids to replace those lost during your C-section
- avoid sex
for four to six weeks
- take pain
medications as needed
- seek help if
you experience symptoms of postpartum depression, such as severe mood swings or
Call your doctor if you
experience the following symptoms:
- breast pain accompanied
with a fever
vaginal discharge or bleeding with large clots
- pain when
- signs of
infection — for example, fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, redness, swelling, or
discharge from the incision