A Guide to C-Sections
April 14, 2022April is Cesarean Awareness Month. While all expecting women hope their deliveries will be free of difficulties and surprises, that won’t always be the case. Sometimes a cesarean section, also called a C-section, may be necessary. Though cesarean deliveries are common, the thought of having the procedure might seem scary. To help ease some of your concerns, here is an overview of what a cesarean section entails, why it may be performed, and aftercare.
What is a C-Section?
More than 30% of babies in the United States are delivered via a C-section.1 A C-section is the surgical delivery of a baby that involves incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. A C-section is performed by an obstetrician when complications arise that make vaginal birth risky for mom or baby.
When a C-Section May be Necessary
Some C-sections are scheduled in advance if the obstetrician has determined during your pregnancy that a vaginal delivery would be too risky; others are emergency procedures performed when complications arise during delivery. Here is a breakdown of some of the circumstances when a C-section is necessary.
- Baby is in a breech (feet- or bottom-first) or transverse (sideways) position.
- Baby’s head is too large for the birth canal.
- Baby has hydrocephalus (excess cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, on the brain).
- Baby’s heart rate increases due to lack of oxygen (fetal distress).
- Mother has high blood pressure or heart disease.
- Mother has HIV or genital herpes.
- There are complications with the placenta.
- The umbilical cord is compressed or prolapsed.
- Labor stops progressing.
What to Expect During a C-Section
A typical C-section takes about 45 minutes. You will be administered anesthesia. A screen or drape will be used to protect the incision. The abdomen will be cleaned with an antiseptic. An oxygen mask may be placed over your nose and mouth to increase the flow of oxygen to your baby. Next, the doctor makes the first incision into the abdominal wall and then another incision into the wall of the uterus and removes the baby through the incisions. Finally, the umbilical cord is cut, the placenta is removed, the incisions are closed, and after baby is checked by your delivery team, your new bundle of joy will be placed in your arms.
Recovering from a C-Section
The recovery period from a C-section is slightly longer than for vaginal deliveries. You and your baby will most likely stay in the hospital for three or four days to give your body time to heal from the surgery. During your recovery period, you may feel pain from the incisions once the anesthesia wears off, itching, and nausea from the anesthesia. Your doctor will also encourage you to walk around to help prevent blood clots and constipation. You will probably experience some gas pains and vaginal discharge.
Once you are out of the hospital, the recovery process will continue. You can expect to experience discomfort and fatigue. Practice self-care to promote faster healing over the next two weeks. Here’s how:
- Rest as much as possible.
- Do not lift anything heavier than your baby.
- Ease pain by taking over-the-counter medications recommended by your doctor.
- Check your C-section incisions regularly for signs of infection.
- Abstain for sex for four to six weeks.
- Share your feelings and ask for help if you experience depression or mood changes.
If you experience fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge or bleeding with large clots, pain when urinating, or swelling or discharge from the incision, call your doctor.2
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