A C-section is the delivery of a baby through a surgical opening in the mother's lower belly area. It is also called a cesarean section.
A C-section delivery is done when it is not possible or safe for the mother to deliver the baby through the vagina.
The procedure is usually done while the woman is awake. The body is numbed from the chest to the feet using epidural or spinal anesthesia.
The surgeon make a cut across the belly just above the pubic area. The womb (uterus) and amniotic sac are opened, and the baby is delivered.
The health care team clears the baby's mouth and nose of fluids, and the umbilical cord is cut. The pediatrician or nurse makes sure that the infant's breathing is normal and that the baby is stable.
The mother is awake, and she can hear and see her baby. The father or another support person is often able to be with the mother during the delivery.
The decision to have a C-section delivery depends on:
Some reasons for having C-section instead of vaginal delivery include:
Problems with the baby:
Health problems and medical history in the mother:
Problems with labor or delivery:
Problems with the placenta or umbilical cord:
A C-section is a safe procedure. The rate of serious complications is extremely low. However, certain risks are higher after C-section than after vaginal delivery. These include:
A C-section may also cause problems in future pregnancies. This includes a higher risk for:
These conditions can lead to severe bleeding (hemorrhage), which may require blood transfusions or removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).
All surgeries carry risks. Risks due to anesthesia may include:
Risks related to surgery in general may include:
Most mothers and infants do well after a c-section.
Women who have a C-section may have a vaginal delivery if another pregnancy occurs, depending on:
Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) delivery is usually successful. However, there is a small risk of uterine rupture, which can harm the mother and the baby. It is important to discuss the benefits and risks of VBAC with your health care provider.
The average hospital stay after C-section is 2 - 4 days. Recovery takes longer than it would from a vaginal birth. You should walk around after the C-section to speed recovery. Pain medication taken by mouth can help ease any pain.
Abdominal delivery; Abdominal birth; Cesarean section
Landon MB. Cesarean delivery. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, ed. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2007: Chap.19.
Cunningham FG, Leveno KJ, Bloom SL, et al. Cesarean delivery and peripartum hysterectomy. In: Cunnigham FG, Leveno KL, Bloom SL, et al, eds. Williams Obstetrics. 23rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2010:chap 25.
Updated by: Melanie N. Smith, MD, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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