C-section, also known as a cesarean section, is a surgical process to deliver a baby. C-sections are usually performed in an operating room or a designated delivery room. All c-sections will be done with anesthesia – usually a block anesthesia, like an epidural block or a spinal block. However, some women will require general anesthesia.
Once the mother is numb, the doctor will make an incision (cut) in her abdomen through which the baby will be removed. Because the anesthesia will block the pain response, the mother should not feel any pain. However, she may feel some pressure or a pulling sensation. After the baby is delivered, the mother will receive stitches to close the incisions.
Some cesarean sections are planned and scheduled accordingly, while others may be performed as a result of complications that occur during labor.
While cesarean births can be life-saving, there are recent concerns about possible overuse of C-sections. This is why it’s important for the patient and family to learn about the labor process, how long it can safely last and what the mother can do to prepare for, and manage, a healthy vaginal delivery.
Your health care provider may suggest a planned c-section for a number of reasons:
- your baby’s head is not in the correct position, and it’s getting close to your due date
- you have a health problem that could get worse from the stress of labor and vaginal delivery
- you have an infection or disease you could pass to your baby through the birth canal
- you are carrying twins or multiples (not all deliveries of twins require a c-section)
- you had a c-section in the past (prior c-sections don’t always require future c-sections)
There are several conditions that may make having an unplanned, or emergency, cesarean section more likely. These include, but are not limited to:
- labor that stops suddenly, fails to progress or doesn’t progress normally
- complications with the placenta, such as placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta blocks the cervix and is at risk of detaching from the uterus before it should
- the baby shows signs of distress, such as a very fast or slow heart rate
- the baby is too big to fit through the vaginal canal
- there are problems with the umbilical cord that put the baby at risk
C-sections are usually straightforward procedures that have good outcomes. But because it is a surgery, there are more risks involved than there are with vaginal birth. Some of the risks include:
- serious blood loss
- blood clots
- complications from anesthesia, such as nausea, vomiting and severe headache (often called a spinal headache)
- injury to mother or baby
- problems with the incision(s)
If you have questions about c-sections, talk with your health care provider. Even if you plan to give birth vaginally, there is always a chance you won’t be able to. And in that case, knowing what to expect from a c-section can help you feel more comfortable with the procedure if you end up needing one.