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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.
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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. 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.
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.
Your doctor will make incisions 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 could also 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. Accessed July 19, 2013.
Cesarean procedure. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/cesarean-procedure. Updated January 2013. Accessed July 19, 2013.
Cesarean section. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 16, 2013. Accessed July 19, 2013.
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 January 2015 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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