A cesarean section C-section is the delivery of a baby through an incision in your abdomen and uterus. In most cases, you can be awake during the birth and be with her baby soon afterward.

Most of the time you will be able to deliver vaginally, but there are cases when a C-section is needed for the safety of you or your baby. So even if you plan on a vaginal birth, it's a good idea to learn about C-section, in case the unexpected happens.

A C-section may be planned or unplanned. In most cases, doctors do cesarean sections because of problems that arise during labor. Reasons you might need an unplanned C-section include:

  • Labor progress stops.
  • The baby shows signs of not tolerating labor.
  • A problem with the placenta or umbilical cord puts the baby at risk.
  • The baby is too big to be delivered vaginally.
  • Health concerns for mom.

When doctors know about a problem ahead of time, they may schedule a C-section. Reasons you might have a planned C-section include:

  • The baby is not in a head-down position (breech) at the time of delivery.
  • You have a problem such as heart disease that could be made worse by the stress of labor.
  • You have an infection that you could pass to the baby during a vaginal birth.
  • You are carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets or more).
  • You had a C-section before, and you have the same problems this time or your doctor thinks labor might cause your scar to tear (uterine rupture).

In some cases, if you who had a C-section in the past you may be able to deliver her next baby through the birth canal. This is called Vaginal Birth After C-section (VBAC). If you have had a previous C-section, you may want to ask your doctor if VBAC might be an option this time.

Most mothers and babies do well after C-section. Some possible risks of C-section include:

  • Infection of the incision or the uterus.
  • Increased blood loss.
  • Blood clots in the mother's legs or lungs.
  • Injury to the mother or baby.
  • Problems from the anesthesia, such as nausea, vomiting, and severe headache.

A woman with a C-section scar has a small risk of the scar tearing open during labor (uterine rupture). She also has a slightly higher risk of a problem with the placenta, such as placenta previa.

How is a C-section performed?

Before a C-section, a needle called an IV is put in your veins to give you fluids and medicine during the surgery. You will then receive anesthesia, usually a spinal, in order to numb your abdomen and legs. You will feel pressure, but should not feel any pain. We only put you asleep (general anesthesia) for emergency deliveries.

Once the anesthesia is working we make a bikini incision just above your pubic hair line. We then separate your muscles and then make an incision on your uterus. After opening your uterus we lift your baby out, separate your baby from the placenta and then deliver your placenta. We then close your uterus and the incision with stiches.

The C-section takes about an hour and most women go home 2 to 5 days after a C-section, but it may take 6 weeks or longer to fully recover.

When you go home:

  • You will need to take it easy while the incision heals. Avoid heavy lifting more than 10# for 6 weeks, intense exercise, and sit-ups.
  • You will have pain in your lower belly and may need pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • You can expect some vaginal bleeding for several weeks. (Use sanitary pads, not tampons.)

Call us if you have any problems or signs of infection, such as a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit or areas of red or pus from your incision.