A cesarean section, also called a C-section, is a surgical procedure performed when a vaginal delivery is not possible or safe, or when the health of the mother or the baby is at risk. During this procedure, the baby is delivered through surgical incisions made in the abdomen and the uterus.
A cesarean delivery might be planned in advance if a medical reason calls for it, or it might be unplanned and take place during your labor if certain problems arise.
You might need to have a planned cesarean delivery if any of the following conditions exist:
An unplanned cesarean delivery might be needed if any of the following conditions arise during your labor:
If the cesarean delivery is not an emergency, the following procedures will take place:
At the start of the procedure, the anesthesia will be administered. Your abdomen will be cleaned with an antiseptic, and a sterile drape will be used to prevent you from watching the surgery.
The doctor will then make an incision through your skin and into the wall of the abdomen. The doctor might use either a vertical or transverse incision (A horizontal incision is also called a bikini incision because it is beneath the belly button). Next, a three- to four-inch incision is then made in the wall of the uterus, and the doctor removes the baby through the incisions. The umbilical cord is then cut, the placenta is removed and the incisions are closed.
If the cesarean is an emergency, the time from incision to delivery takes about two minutes. In a non-emergency, a cesarean birth can take 10 to 15 minutes, with an additional 45 minutes for the delivery of the placenta and suturing of the incisions.
Because the cesarean is major surgery, it will take you longer to recover from this type of delivery than it would from a vaginal delivery. Depending on your condition, you will probably stay in the hospital from three to four days.
Once the anesthesia wears off, you will begin to feel the pain from the incisions, so be sure to ask for pain medicine. You might also experience gas pains and have trouble taking deep breaths. You will also have a vaginal discharge after the surgery due to the shedding of the uterine wall. The discharge will be red at first and then gradually changes to yellow. Be sure to call your health care provider if you experience heavy bleeding or a foul odor from the vaginal discharge.
Like any surgery, a cesarean section involves some risks. These might include:
The majority of women who have had a cesarean delivery might be able to delivery vaginally in a subsequent pregnancy. If you meet the following criteria, your chances of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) are greatly increased:
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