C-Section (Cesarean Section): Procedure and Complications

c-section feature image

What is C-section or Cesarean Section?

A cesarean delivery, the other name for which is C-section basically involves a surgical delivery of a baby.

It involves two major types of incisions:

  1. Incision in mother’s abdomen
  2. Incision in the uterus

It’s a common procedure that’s used for the delivery of nearly one-third of babies in US.

Doctors usually advice to avoid cesarean deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation time so that the child goes through all the developmental stages of gestation period in an appropriate manner.

c-section procedure

However, sometimes, complications may arise and there would be a need of performing the cesarean delivery before the 39 weeks complete.

What is the Purpose of Cesarean Delivery?

A cesarean delivery is usually performed when complications during the time of pregnancy make traditional delivery and birth procedure difficult to perform.

Moreover, specifically when the complications have the chances of putting the child or mother at risk.

Sometimes, your gynecologist would advice to plan cesarean deliveries early during the time of pregnancy.

Your obstetricians and gynecologists can advise you to deliver a baby by c-section rather than vaginal delivery beforehand.

However, they’re most often performed when the complications start to arise during the time of labor.

c-section baby birth

Reasons for cesarean delivery also include:

  • Complications during early pregnancy
  • If baby has developmental conditions
  • Baby’s head is too big
  • Breech birth
  • If mother has certain health problems, such as unstable heart disease or a high blood pressure
  • History of one or more cesarean delivery
  • Mother has active genital herpes that can be transmitted to the baby
  • Certain problems with placenta like placenta previa or placenta abruption
  • Stalled labor
  • Issues with the umbilical cord
  • Reduction in the supply of oxygen to the baby
  • Transverse labor

Risks Associated with Cesarean Delivery

A c-section delivery is becoming the most common type of delivery, but it’s still a major kind of surgery that usually carries risks for both the child and the mother.

Moreover, the most common risks of the cesarean delivery include:

  • Blood clotting
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Longer time for recovery
  • Injury to the baby during during surgery
  • Breathing problems for the child (mostly before 39 weeks of gestation period)
  • Surgical injury to the other organs
  • Greater risk of future pregnancies
  • Adhesions
  • Hernia
  • Other complications related to the abdominal surgery

You and your gynecologist will discuss the birthing options for you before your due date.

You and your doctor will discuss your birthing options before your due date. Your doctor will also be able to determine if you or your baby are showing any signs of complications that would require a cesarean delivery.

Preparation for a Cesarean Delivery

If your gynecologist decides that the cesarean delivery is the best possible option for you, he/she will instruct you about all the possible complications and consequently, you’ll have a successful cesarean delivery.

As with any case of pregnancy, the prenatal appointments will be involving several checkups.

c-section consultation session

This will also include blood tests as well as other examinations for the purpose of determining your health to see if there’s a possibility of c-section or not.

Your doctor will also make sure to record your blood type in case you’d be needing a blood transfusing during the surgical procedure.

Blood transfusions are rarely needed during the cesarean delivery but your doctor will be prepared for any sort of complications.

Even if you aren’t planning to have a c-section, you should always be ready to prepare for the unexpected results.

At the prenatal appointments with your gynecologist, you should discuss the risk factors for the cesarean delivery and what you can actually do to lower them.

Moreover, you should make sure that all of your questions are thoroughly answered, and that you understand what could otherwise happen if you need to have an emergency c-section before your due date.

Because a cesarean delivery takes an additional time to recover from the normal, arranging to have an extra set of hands around you in the house will be really helpful.

Not only will you be able to recover from the surgery but your new baby will also need your attention at the same time.

To learn more about the complications you may have during pregnancy, don’t forget to check our blog posts covering pregnancy symptoms, ectopic pregnancy, best ways to identify and treat pelvic pain during pregnancy, what to avoid during pregnancy as well as obstetrics: antenatal care and postnatal care.

Procedure of Cesarean Delivery

You should also be planning to stay in the hospital for more than three to four days while you recover from your surgery.

complications of c-section

Before starting the surgery, your abdomen will be cleaned in a thorough manner and you’ll be prepared for receiving IV fluids into your arm.

This would allow doctors to administer fluids as well as any sort of medications you may be needing.

You will also have to keep your bladder empty during the surgical procedure.

There are three main types of anesthesia for delivering mothers:

1. Epidural

A common anesthesia that is injected directly into the sac that usually surrounds your spinal cord, therefore numbing the lower portion of the mother’s body.

2. Spinal Block

Anesthesia is injected directly into the sac that surrounds your spinal cord and thus numbing the lower part of your body.
Spinal anesthesia and epidural are both forms of regional anesthesia.

3. General Anesthesia

The type of anesthesia that puts you into a painless sleep and is mostly for the emergency situations.

Moreover, once you have properly been medicated as well as numbed, your doctor would make an incision just above the pubic hairline.

There is typically a horizontal incision across your pelvic area.

In emergency situations, the incision might be vertical.

Once the incision is being made into the abdominal area and the uterus exposes, your gynecologist will make an incision into the uterus.

The area would be covered during the procedure and the baby will be taken out and removed from the uterus after the second incision.

Your gynecologist would first tend to your baby by clearing their nose as well as mouth.

Afterwards, he/she would move onto clamping and cutting the umbilical cord.

Your baby will then be given to hospital staff and they will ensure that your baby is breathing in a normal manner and prepare your baby to be put into your arms.

Moreover, if you’re sure you don’t want any more children and have also signed the consent, the doctor can now tie your tubes at the same time.

The process we call as tubal ligation.

Your gynecologist will also repair your uterus by:

  • dissolving stitches
  • closing your abdominal incision with sutures

Follow Up Sessions After the Cesarean Delivery

After your c-section, you and your newborn will stay in the hospital for about three days at least.

Immediately after the surgery, you’ll remain on an IV.

This would allow you for the adjusted levels of the painkillers to be delivered into your bloodstream while the effect of anesthesia wears off.

c-section aftercare

Your doctor would also encourage you to get up and walk around. This can also help to prevent constipation as well as blood clotting.

A nurse or doctor would also advice you how to position your child for breastfeeding so there’s no additional pain from the cesarean delivery incision area.

Your doctor will give you recommendations for home care after the surgery, but you should generally expect to:

  • Take it easy and rest (this specifically goes for the first few weeks)
  • Using correct posture for supporting your abdomen
  • Drinking plenty of fluids in order to replace those that were lost during the c-section
  • Taking pain killers as needed
  • Seeking professional help if you’re experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression, such as severe mood swings or the overwhelming fatigue.

When to See the Doctor?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that after your babies’ born you may feel mild cramps and pain in the site of the incision.

Call your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Signs of infection (for example 100°F fever, swelling, redness or discharge from the incision)
  • Pain while urinating
  • Bleeding with large clots

Recovery From C-Section

Childbirth is the most exciting time in a woman’s life.

You finally get to meet the baby and hold him/her in your arms.

Though, the nine months of pregnancy can get taxing to your body, especially if you’ve had a C-section.

c-section newborn

You’ll also be needing more time to recover than you would after a normal delivery.

In order to speed up the process of recovery, here a few tips you may try in order to spend less time tired and sore, and more time bonding with your new born.

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Baby your body
  • Take pain killers if required
  • Intake of healthy and balanced diet

Conclusion

You’ll probably be feeling some soreness after the incision. Also, it’s normal to have discharge or bleeding for up to six weeks after the C-section.

That’s totally normal!

But the following symptoms warrant a call to your doctor as they signal an infection:

  • Pain around the site of infection
  • Swelling, redness or pus oozing from the site of incision
  • Fever of more than 38°C
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty while breathing
  • Swelling or redness in your leg
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Difficulty in breathing properly
  • Chest pain
  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Thoughts of hurting your baby

c-section newborn baby

Finally, if you have a sibling or a friend who went through C-section, don’t compare your situation to them.

Every woman’s experience with surgery and pregnancy is different.

Therefore, focus on your own healing right now and give your body the time it needs to get back to normal.

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