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Definition

A cesarean birth (C-section) is the delivery of a baby through an incision in the belly wall.

Cesarean Delivery
Cesarean Delivery

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Reasons for Procedure

A C-section may be done in these situations:

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to other organs in the belly
  • The need for more surgeries. Can include a hysterectomy, bladder repair, or repeat C-sections with future pregnancies

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Prior C-section birth
  • Prior surgery of the uterus
  • Abnormal placenta
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

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:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Tests that may need to be done before surgery

Arrange for a ride to and from surgery.

Anesthesia

The doctor may give:

  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep
  • Regional anesthesia—your lower body will be numb

Description of the Procedure

An cut 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 cut 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

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

Right after the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you pain medicine
  • Place the baby on your chest to promote bonding
  • Teach you how to feed your baby without putting pressure on your incision

At Home

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:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Excess bleeding, redness, swelling, increasing pain, or discharge from the incision
  • Pain that you cannot control with medicine
  • Swelling and pain in 1 or both legs
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • New or worsening symptoms

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

American Pregnancy Association
http://www.americanpregnancy.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Women's Health Network
http://www.cwhn.ca

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org

REFERENCES:

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: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/cesarean-procedure. 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 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 3/12/2021