Cesarean Section

A Cesarean section, also referred to as a C-section, is surgery to deliver a baby. During a C-section, the baby is surgically removed through surgical incisions in the mother's abdomen and uterus. It may be planned by a physician ahead of time due to pregnancy complications, or may be necessary when unexpected problems arise during labor and/or delivery.

Reasons for Cesarean Section

A C-section may be planned in advance for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Fetus is in a breech position
  • There are multiple fetuses
  • There are placenta problems
  • Mother has had a previous C-section

Unexpected labor-and-delivery issues that may make an emergency C-section necessary include the following:

  • Fetal distress
  • Health of mother is in jeopardy
  • Fetus cannot fit through vagina
  • Problems with umbilical cord
  • Labor is not progressing

A C-section may also be necessary if the mother has an underlying health problem such as a heart condition, or an HIV or herpes infection. If she knows that a C-section may be necessary, a woman with a high-risk pregnancy is advised to go to a hospital when she is in labor.

The Cesarean Section Procedure

A C-section is performed in a hospital setting, usually with the mother awake. Prior to surgery, a catheter is placed in the urethra to drain urine. A spinal block is used to deliver 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 in the uterus. The baby is then delivered through the incision, the umbilical cord is cut, and the placenta is 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.

Recovery from Cesarean Section

After a C-section, mother and baby typically stay in the hospital for 3 days. Soreness at the incision site is common, and pain is treated with prescription medication. While recovering, a woman may experience common post-delivery symptoms, including cramping, and vaginal bleeding/discharge for 4 to 6 weeks. After leaving the hospital, physical activity is limited while the incision heals, and sexual intercourse should be avoided for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Risks of Cesarean Section

Risks associated with a C-section include the following:

  • Infection
  • Increased bleeding
  • Reaction to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Injury to other organs

C-section patients have a greater chance of experiencing complications during subsequent pregnancies; they include uterine rupture, heavy bleeding and placenta problems.

Additional Resources