Cesarean Section

Is a c-section right for you?

A cesarean section, also called a c-section, is a surgical alternative to giving birth vaginally. A cesarean delivery can be planned ahead of time, or may be performed spontaneously if certain complications occur after you go into labor.

You can have an elective c-section, which first-time mothers frequently opt for in order to avoid the potential complications of a vaginal birth. More and more, however, doctors are recommending against this practice. An elective c-section is generally scheduled for a couple of weeks before your due date, to make sure labor doesn't start on its own unexpectedly. Recent findings are showing that even those last two weeks in the womb can make a difference to your newborn baby's health.


Why a Cesarean Section Is Performed

Under some conditions, your doctor may recommend a c-section for medical reasons, and sometimes an emergency cesarean section may be necessary as a life-saving measure. Some common reasons for cesarean delivery include:

  • Your cervix isn't dilating as it should during labor.
  • A reduced oxygen supply is reaching the baby.
  • You have had a c-section in the past.
  • An ultrasound has revealed that your baby has hydrocephalus or other pre-birth health complications.
  • Your birth canal is too small for the baby's head.
  • There are problems with the umbilical cord or placenta (such as placenta previa) that may pose a danger during vaginal birth.
  • You are carrying more than one baby in your womb.
  • The baby is in breech position, or another unusual position in your womb.
  • You have health concerns, such as genital herpes, high blood pressure or heart disease.

The C-Section Procedure

A typical cesarean birth can be completed in less than one hour. The operation has five steps:

  1. You will be prepared for the operation by having your abdomen sterilized. You may also be hooked up to a catheter and given intravenous lines to deliver nutrients and fluids.
  2. A local anesthesia will be administered. Pain medication for a c-section usually takes the form of a spinal or epidural anesthetic, which numbs you from the abdomen down. General anesthesia may be used in an emergency c-section since it takes effect immediately.
  3. The surgeon makes the first incision, through your abdomen.
  4. The surgeon makes a second incision, through your uterus.
  5. The surgeon delivers your baby and closes your incisions.

Pain control will not be an issue during the procedure, but during your c section recovery, you may experience significant pain from the operation. Expect to remain in hospital for about three days after the c-section; in most cases, you will be encouraged to get up and walk around as soon as you're able, and you will be able to control the dosage of your own pain medication to ensure you're comfortable.