A cesarean section (C-Section) may be planned in advance or may become necessary during the course of labor. A cesarean section involves making an incision in the abdomen through which the baby is removed. Cesarean section may be used if a vaginal delivery is not safe for the mother or baby. Cesarean sections are becoming more and more common in the United States.
Some cesarean sections may be planned well in advance. Certain medical conditions in the mother may necessitate the surgery, including high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, active herpes, preeclampsia, eclampsia, or a previous cesarean section. Certain conditions in the baby may necessitate the surgery, including a fetal illness or abnormality, a head that is too big to fit through the vaginal canal, and a difficult fetal position, such as feet first. A cesarean section may be necessary if the placenta is blocking the cervical opening (placenta previa) or if the placenta separates from the uterine wall (abruption placenta).
Some cesarean sections may not be planned in advanced and may be necessary if the mother or baby experience distress during delivery. This may occur if the labor fails to progress and if the cervix does not dilate after 16 to 18 hours. A cesarean section may be necessary if the umbilical cord is compressed and there is a risk that the baby’s oxygen supply could be cut off.
In emergency situations, general anesthesia may be used. In most cases, spinal anesthesia will be used so that you will not feel pain below your waist, but you will be awake for the birth of your baby. A cesarean section is a short procedure. It usually can be performed within half an hour. You will be able to hold your baby within minutes of his or her birth.
To perform a cesarean, your surgeon will make a horizontal incision in your lower abdomen. The uterine wall will be opened. When the fetal membranes are ruptured, the amniotic fluid will rush out. The surgeon will carefully lift your baby out. The umbilical cord is cut, and the placenta is removed. Your surgeon will use stitches to close the uterus and the abdominal wall.
Women that receive a cesarean section may spend a few more days in the hospital to recover than those that do not. Your doctor will probably want you to be as active as possible, but may temporarily restrict lifting activities. After about four or five days, your stitches are removed.