Preparing for a C-Section
A C-section, also called cesarean delivery, is a surgical procedure. Your baby is delivered through incisions in your abdomen and uterus, instead of vaginally.
You may be able to plan a C-section ahead of time if you develop pregnancy complications or you've had a previous C-section and aren't considering vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). But the need for a first-time C-section often isn’t obvious until your labor is under way.
Why would your doctor recommend a C-section? Stalled labor is one of the main reasons why your doctor might recommend a C-section. Other reasons include:
- Your baby is not getting enough oxygen
- Your baby is in an abnormal position
- You’re carrying twins, triplets, or other multiples
- There’s a problem with your placenta
- You or your baby have a health concern that makes vaginal delivery risky
What can you expect during a C-section? An average C-section takes less than an hour. You can expect:
- Bathing. You’ll be asked to shower or bathe the night before with an antibacterial soap to reduce risk of infection. Your abdomen is also cleaned before your procedure and a tube is inserted to collect your urine.
- IV. An IV is inserted in your hand or arm to deliver fluids and medication.
- Anesthesia. Anesthesia is used to numb the lower part of your body, which allows you to remain awake during the procedure.
- Abdominal incision. The doctor makes an incision through your abdominal wall, usually horizontally near your pubic hairline.
- Uterine incision. After your abdominal incision, the doctor will make an incision in your uterus. The uterine incision is usually horizontal across the lower part of your uterus.
- Delivery. You'll likely feel some movement as the doctor gently removes the baby from your uterus, but you shouldn't feel pain. The umbilical cord is clamped and cut and the placenta is removed from your uterus. Your incisions are closed with sutures.
What are the risks? Recovery from a C-section is longer than vaginal birth. Risks to your baby include breathing problems such as transient tachypnea or surgical injuries such as nicks to your baby’s skin, which are rare. Your risks include:
- Inflammation and infection of the membrane lining your uterus
- Increased bleeding
- Reactions to anesthesia
- Blood clots
- Wound infection
- Surgical injury
- Increased risks during future pregnancies
How can you prepare? Talk to your doctor about anesthesia options to determine the best one for you. You also may be asked to undergo blood tests before your C-section, in case an emergency blood transfusion is needed during the procedure. Additionally, plan ahead of time for the recovery process by recruiting help from friends, family, or a nanny at home.
Advance preparation will reduce your anxiety and help ensure your C-section goes as smoothly as possible.