A cesarean section, also referred to as a C-section, is surgery to deliver a baby. During a c-section, a doctor surgically removes the baby through the mother's abdomen using surgical incisions in the abdomen and uterus. A C-section is considered a surgical procedure and takes place in the operating room of a hospital. A C-section may be planned by a physician ahead of time due to pregnancy complications, however in some cases, a C-section may be necessary when unexpected problems arise during labor or delivery.
Reasons for a C-section
A cesarean section may be necessary for several reasons and may be planned in advance, but in some instances it is an emergency procedure. A C-section may be planned in advance because of the following reasons:
- The baby is in a breech position
- There are multiple fetuses
- There are placenta problems
- The mother has had a previous C-section
A C-section may also be performed when unexpected issues arise during delivery. These may include:
- Signs of fetal distress
- Health of the mother is in jeopardy
- The baby cannot fit through the vagina during delivery
- Umbilical cord problems
- Labor is not progressing
A C-section may also be necessary if the mother has any underlying health problems such as a heart condition, or an HIV or herpes infection. Because of the possibility that a C-section may be necessary, most women with high risk pregnancies are advised to go to a hospital when they are in labor.
The C-Section Procedure
A C-section is performed in a hospital setting and is commonly performed while the mother remains awake. Prior to the surgery, a catheter is placed in the urethra to drain urine. A spinal block is used to deliver regional anesthesia to the lower part of the mother's body (mid abdomen and below). The doctor makes an incision in the abdomen near the pubic hairline and then a second incision is made in the uterus. The baby is then delivered through the incision, the umbilical cord is cut and the placenta is also removed from the uterus. The uterus is stitched closed with dissolvable stitches, and the abdomen is closed with either stitches or staples. The catheter is usually removed from the bladder within a few hours after the surgery.
Recovery from a C-Section
After the C-section, the mother and baby will typically stay in the hospital for 3 days. Soreness at the incision site is common and pain is treated with prescription medication. While recovering, woman may experience common symptoms that occur after giving birth, which include cramping, and vaginal bleeding or discharge for about 4 to 6 weeks. After leaving the hospital, physical activities may be limited while the incision heals and sexual intercourse should be avoided for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
Risks of a C-Section
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with a C-section that include:
- Increased bleeding
- Reaction to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Injury to other organs
Women who have had a C-section have a higher risk of complications with subsequent pregnancies including: uterine rupture, heavy bleeding and placenta problems.