What Is a Cesarean Section (C-Section)?
A cesarean section is a surgical delivery of your baby. The doctor makes an incision in the abdomen and uterus to remove the baby. It's a fairly common procedure, with about one in five babies delivered by C-section.
Why you might need a C-section
A C-section is only performed when medically necessary for the safety of you and your baby. It is not an elective procedure. The C-section may be planned because of known conditions or it may happen because of a complication during a vaginal delivery. Some reasons you may have a scheduled C-section include:
- Medical conditions: These include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure (preeclampsia), or infections like herpes.
- Multiples: If the situation warrants, you may need a C-section to deliver twins.
- Large baby: There's concern the baby may not be safely delivered vaginally because of its size.
- Position of placenta: The placenta may block the cervix (placenta previa).
- Previous cesarean delivery: Many women are able to deliver vaginally after a past C-section, but it's not always safest. Your doctor will talk to you about whether vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is an option for you.
- Problems with the fetus: Anomalies or other issues were discovered during prenatal testing.
- The baby's position: If the baby is breech (feet first) or sideways, it is much harder to deliver vaginally.
You may need an emergency C-section in a situation when you were planning to have a vaginal birth. This may be because:
- The baby needs prompt delivery
- Complications during VBAC
- Failure of labor to progress, which can happen during labor induction
- Complications during labor, such as placental abruption, when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall too early
How to prepare for a C-section
Even though you won't be laboring and pushing in the traditional sense, you are still giving birth and it's normal to feel nervous. Complete a birth plan using our guide to notify the care team of your preferences for support people, the environment of the room, and whether you want to breastfeed or formula feed. Practice some relaxation techniques, pick music to listen to in the operating room, and take steps to mentally prepare for the delivery.
Throughout your pregnancy, aim to maintain a reasonable weight gain and stay as physically active as you can. This will help you during the recovery phase.
C-Section risks and complications
A C-section is a surgical procedure, so it does carry some risks, but serious complications are rare. Some risks include:
- Injury to surrounding organs or bladder and bowels
- Negative reactions to medications
You may have one of three different types of incisions, but scars today are much smaller and more easily hidden than in the past.
- Low transverse incision: This is the most common type. It is a horizontal incision made across the lower part of your uterus, typically below the bikini line. Incisions in this area usually bleed less and form stronger scars, which increases your chances of having a vaginal birth in the future.
- Classical incision: This is how all C-sections used to be performed, with a long vertical incision high up on the uterus. These are used rarely and only in emergency situations that require this type of incision.
- Low vertical incision: This type of incision is similar to the classical, but lower on the uterus. It is used when the baby is in an awkward position.
What to expect during a C-section
On the day of your delivery, you will be prepared for surgery and attached to equipment to monitor you and your baby's health. You'll meet with the anesthesiologist who will explain the pain-control methods used. You are awake during the procedure, but you won't feel pain. You may feel some pressure or pulling.
The doctor will make the incision, gently deliver the baby from your uterus, and give the baby to the nurse. He or she will cut the umbilical cord and remove the placenta. After delivery, the doctor will close the incision in the uterus with stitches that dissolve and use stitches or staples to close the incision on your abdomen.
You can hold and begin nursing your baby immediately.
After the surgery, you may receive pain medication to keep you comfortable. If you're breastfeeding, lactation consultants can help you find the right position. It may be difficult to sit up at first, and you want to be sure the baby isn't putting pressure on your incision during feedings.
You may spend two to four days in the hospital after delivery. While in the hospital, you'll be encouraged to walk soon after the anesthesia wears off.
For the first few days, you may have soreness at the incision and be constipated or gassy. Avoid lifting anything heavy and limit activities that put pressure on your incision.
It may take you six to eight weeks to fully heal and return to work and normal activities. Your health care provider will give you specific instructions about activity and caring for your scar.
Why Choose UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital?
The birthing center at Magee is a family-friendly facility with access to the latest medical technology. You will receive care from our experts, who have experience delivering thousands of babies every year. Our team will support you and your family throughout the delivery and recovery.
To find out more about delivering at Magee, call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433) to speak with a member of our staff.
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