Abdominal Birth - C-Section
Overview & Description
A c-section is the delivery of a baby through an incision in the
mother's abdomen. C-sections are done when the health of a mother or baby
is at risk.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
A c-section may be done to help the mother if:
the baby's head is too large to pass through her pelvis
labor has gone on too long without enough progress
the baby is in a position that will make a vaginal birth difficult
the mother is having medical problems, such as kidney failure or
high blood pressure
that can signal a dangerous health condition called
the mother is bleeding internally from a traumatic accident
the mother has a history of infertility,
especially if she is older than age 40
an earlier pregnancy resulted in the birth of a stillborn baby
serious health problems, such as cancer
or a coma, make it doubtful that a mother can withstand the stress of labor
a mother's pelvis is unusually shaped
a mother has had two or more previous c-sections
a mother's water breaks and her baby is not in a head-down position
A c-section may be done to help the baby if:
the baby is not getting enough oxygen
the baby's heart rate rises to an unhealthy level due to problems such as
a fever in the mother or infection in the baby
the heart rate drops too low, possibly because the umbilical cord is
wrapped around the baby's neck
he or she is part of a multiple birth, such as twins or triplets
there is placenta abruptio, where the placenta tears away from the uterus
there is placenta previa, which happens when the placenta is touching or
covering the cervix
the baby has defects or health problems that may cause distress
the baby has not been growing at a healthy rate, which is called intrauterine
the mother has an active herpes
outbreak in or near her vagina
How is the procedure performed?
The woman is usually awake for a c-section. Spinal or
epidural anesthesia may be used to prevent pain in the lower
half of the body.
The surgeon makes an incision just above the pubic hair or
cuts through a previous abdominal incision. He or she must cut through
many layers of the mother's tissues to get to the uterus. Then the lower
portion of the uterus close to the bladder is opened. The baby's head is
brought out through this incision, followed by the rest of his or her body.
The uterus and all the layers of tissue and skin on top of it are then closed with
stitches or staples.
Preparation & Expectations
What happens right after the procedure?
After the c-section, the mother:
may try to breastfeed
in the recovery room if she and the baby are doing well
will probably get antibiotics and intravenous (IV) fluids for 24 hours
will be encouraged to walk as soon as possible
may be given pain relievers through an IV pump or shots. Once the mother
can eat food, she can take pills instead
usually stays in the hospital for at least 48 hours, depending on whether
she or the baby has any more problems
Home Care and Complications
What happens later at home?
It takes longer to recover from a c-section than from a vaginal
birth. Once she is home, a woman should:
try to get some help from friends and family or from paid employees,
for the first few days
try to use the stairs very little for the first week
walk daily to keep blood clots from forming in her legs
use a heating blanket on the incision, if needed to provide comfort
keep taking prenatal vitamins
eat a balanced diet with plenty of fluids to prevent constipation
What are the potential complications after the procedure?
Problems are possible with any surgery that requires
anesthesia. These include:
problems with the anesthetic, such as breathing problems or drug reactions
reactions to medicines, such as antibiotics or pain relievers
a higher risk that blood transfusions will be needed
a pelvic or wound infection
bladder infection or trauma to the bladder
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.
Author:Eva Martin, MD
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Kathleen A. MacNaughton, RN, BSN