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In a cesarean birth (C-section), the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's abdomen. In the United States, some estimates suggest almost half of all births are delivered by C-section.
Reasons for Procedure
The following situations may require a C-section:
Cesarean birth is a surgery. There are some risks involved. The estimated risk of a woman dying after a cesarean birth is extremely small. The risk of death after a vaginal birth is even smaller. Other risks include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Cesarean birth also has risks for babies. Babies born prematurely have more risks. The risk of death for premature babies delivered by elective C-section is very small. The risk of death for premature babies born vaginally is even smaller.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
C-sections are often unplanned. If you have a scheduled C-section, you may be asked not to eat or drink after midnight before the procedure.
You may be given:
Many women prefer regional anesthesia so that they can be awake to see their new baby.
Description of the Procedure
Your doctor will make incisions in your abdominal skin and womb.
After the incisions are made, the baby will be delivered. Your uterus will be closed with stitches that later dissolve on their own. Staples could also be used to close the abdomen.
Immediately After Procedure
Your baby will be examined. You may be able to hold your baby. It will depend on the condition of you and your baby.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the surgery. You may feel some pressure and tugging as the uterus is opened and the baby and placenta are removed. You will receive pain medicines while you recover. They will help you manage your pain and discomfort.
Average Hospital Stay
At the Hospital
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
You should heal quickly and completely after a C-section. Talk with your doctor about the type of incisions used during your procedure. It may play a role in decisions about future births.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Cesarean section. Childbirth.org website. Available at: http://www.childbirth.org/section/section.html . Accessed October 8, 2012.
Cesarean section. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/ . Updated August 7, 2012. Accessed October 8, 2012.
7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : De Luca R, Boulvain M, et al. Incidence of early neonatal mortality and morbidity after late-preterm and term cesarean delivery. Pediatrics . 2009;123:e1064-1071.
10/23/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Abd-El-Maeboud KH, Ibrahim MI, et al. Gum chewing stimulates early return of bowel motility after caesarean section. BJOG . 2009;116:1334-1339.
12/4/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Marín Gabriel M, Llana Martín I, et al. Randomized controlled trial of early skin-to-skin contact: effects on the mother and the newborn. Acta Paediatr . 2009 Nov 12. [Epub ahead of print]
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med . 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Andrea Chisholm