by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
A cesarean birth (C-section) is the delivery of a baby through an incision in the mother's belly.
Reasons for Procedure
A C-section may be done in these situations:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
C-sections are often unplanned. If you have a scheduled C-section, your health team may meet with you to talk about:
The doctor may give:
Description of the Procedure
An incision will be made in the belly and uterus. The baby will be delivered. The uterus will be closed with stitches that will dissolve on their own. Staples or stitches will be used to close the incision in the belly.
Immediately After Procedure
The baby will be examined.
How Long Will It Take?
About an hour
Will It Hurt?
Pain is common in the first week. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
3 to 5 days
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
It will take about 6 weeks to fully heal with a gradual return to normal activity levels.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
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
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (College), Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Caughey AB, Cahill AG, Guise JM, Rouse DJ. Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Mar;210(3):179-93, reaffirmed 2016.
Cesarean birth. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/labor-delivery-and-postpartum-care/cesarean-birth. Accessed July 21, 2020.
Cesarean procedure. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed July 21, 2020.
Cesarean section. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/cesarean-section . Updated July 6, 2020. Accessed July 21, 2020.
Quinlan J. Cesarian Delivery: counseling issues and complication management; Am Fam Physician. 2015 Feb1;91 (3):178-184
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 7/21/2020
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