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A cesarean birth (C-section) is the delivery of a baby 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.
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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. Your doctor will review potential problems like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
C-sections also have risks for babies. 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.
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.
Incisions will be made in your abdominal skin and uterus.
After the incisions are made, the baby will be delivered. Your uterus will be closed with stitches that later dissolve on their own. Staples or stitches will be used to close the abdomen.
Your baby will be examined. You may be able to hold your baby. It will depend on the condition of you and your baby.
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. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
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.
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Cesarean birth. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq006.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130719T1543190286. Published May 2015. Accessed March 14, 2015.
Cesarean procedure. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/cesarean-procedure. Updated August 2015. Accessed March 14, 2016.
Cesarean section. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 23, 2016. Accessed March 14, 2016.
Quinlan J. Cesarian Delivery: counceling issues and complication management; Am Fam Physician. 2015 Feb1;91 (3):178-184
7/21/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what : 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. 2010;99(11):1630-1634.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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.
3/11/2015 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Girsen AI, Osmundson SS, et al. Body mass index and operative times at cesarean delivery. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;124(4):684-689.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Marcie L. Sidman, MD