Cesarean section, C-section, or Cesarean birth is the surgical delivery of a baby through a cut (incision) made in the mother's abdomen and uterus. Health care providers use it when they believe it is safer for the mother, the baby, or both.
The incision made in the skin may be:
The type of incision used depends on the health of the mother and the fetus. The incision in the uterus may also be either vertical or horizontal.
If you can't deliver vaginally, C-section allows the fetus to be delivered surgically. You may be able to plan and schedule your Cesarean. Or, you may have it done because of problems during labor.
Several conditions make a Cesarean delivery more likely. These include:
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend a Cesarean delivery.
Some possible complications of a C-section may include:
After a C-section, a woman may not be able to have a vaginal birth in a future pregnancy. It will depend on the type of uterine incision used. Vertical scars are not strong enough to hold together during labor contractions, so a repeat C-section is necessary.
You may have other risks that are unique to you. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure, if possible.
A C-section will be done in an operating room or a special delivery room. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.
In most cases, you will be awake for a C-section. Only in rare cases will a mother need medicine that puts you into a deep sleep (general anesthesia). Most C-sections are done with a regional anesthesia such as an epidural or spinal. With these, you will have no feeling from your waist down, but you will be awake and able to hear and see your baby as soon as he or she is born.
Generally, a C-section follows this process:
In the recovery room, nurses will watch your blood pressure, breathing, pulse, bleeding, and the firmness of your uterus.
Usually, you can be with your baby while you are in the recovery area. In some cases, babies born by Cesarean will first need to be monitored in the nursery for a short time. Breastfeeding can start in the recovery area, just as with a vaginal delivery.
After an hour or 2 in the recovery area, you will be moved to your room for the rest of your hospital stay.
As the anesthesia wears off, you may get pain medicine as needed. This can be either from the nurse or through a device connected to your intravenous (IV) line called a PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) pump. In some cases, pain medicine may be given through the epidural catheter until it is removed.
You may have gas pains as the intestinal tract starts working again after surgery. You will be encouraged to get out of bed. Moving around and walking helps ease gas pains. Your healthcare provider may also give you medicine for this. You may feel some uterine contractions called after-pains for a few days. The uterus continues to contract and get smaller over several weeks.
The urinary catheter is usually removed the day after surgery.
You may be given liquids to drink a few hours after surgery. You can gradually add more solid foods as you can handle them.
You may be given antibiotics in your IV while in the hospital and a prescription to keep taking the antibiotics at home.
You will need to wear a sanitary pad for bleeding. It is normal to have cramps and vaginal bleeding for several days after birth. You may have discharge that changes from dark red or brown to a lighter color over several weeks.
Do not douche, use tampons, or have sex until your healthcare provider tells you it’s OK. You may also have other limits on your activity, including no strenuous activity, driving, or heavy lifting.
Take a pain reliever as recommended by your healthcare provider. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase bleeding. So, be sure to take only recommended medicines.
Arrange for a follow-up visit with your healthcare provider. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery.
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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