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C-sections 101

A Caesarean section, otherwise known as a C-section is a birth method by which the baby is delivered through an incision into the mother’s belly and uterus, rather than through a vaginal delivery.

How is a C-section performed?

When performing a C-section, doctors generally insert an IV in order to provide fluid and medication. After this, an epidural or other form of local anesthesia is used to numb the abdomen and lower body – general anesthesia is usually only used in cases of emergency. The doctor will then make an incision, most commonly right above the pubic hair line, through the belly and into the uterus. Once the path is open, the doctor will pull the baby out, followed by the placenta. They will then stitch the incision closed.

Who might need a C-section?

Most C-sections are ordered because of a complicating factor that could put either mom or baby’s health in danger during a vaginal delivery. These reasons include:

  • Multiple pregnancy, as multiples often have a difficult time getting into the correct birthing position, and labor can begin prematurely
  • Health problems with the fetus, including umbilical cord and heart issues may necessitate an emergency C-section
  • Placental problems could force a C-section, as the placenta is responsible for providing baby with the nutrients he or she needs, and may be unable to do so if there is an issue
  • Breeched babies, that is, when the baby is facing feet-down rather than head-down near the due date, may need to be delivered by C-section rather than vaginally.

Other issues that could force a C-section include unsuccessful vaginal deliveries, or maternal health problems such as infections, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

Are there any risks?

C-sections are considered very safe, though there may be some side effects after the procedure, including heavy bleeding, blood clots, infections, and anesthesia-related headaches and nausea. Babies born by C-section are also more likely to deal with breathing problems, particularly if they are born prematurely.

It can take up to five or so days after a C-section before you are released from the hospital, and you may notice some constipation, bleeding, or other effects for the few weeks after the procedure. Women should also avoid exercise, and sex in the weeks after a C-section before consulting with a healthcare provider. It’s important to stay well-hydrated and as relaxed as possible during the post-op weeks in order for the best, healthiest recovery possible.

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • “Cesarean Section.” U.S National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, n.d. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “C-section.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 8/4/2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “C-section Risks.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 8/4/2015. Web.

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