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Cesarean Delivery (C-Section)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
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What is a cesarean delivery (C-section)?

A C-section is surgery to deliver your baby through a cut made in your belly and uterus.

Why would I need to have a C-section?

You may need a C-section if the doctor thinks it would be safer for you or your baby than delivering your baby vaginally, such as when:

  • Your labor is taking a long time

  • Your baby is in an unusual position, such as breech (bottom first)

  • Your baby is in trouble (fetal distress) and needs to be delivered right away

  • You're bleeding too much

  • You had a C-section before

Can I delivery a baby vaginally if I have had a C-section before?

If you had a C-section for a prior pregnancy, it can be dangerous to deliver a baby vaginally. You may need another C-section. However, sometimes you can deliver your baby vaginally.

You may be able to deliver your baby vaginally if you had only one C-section before and the cut (incision) was in the lower part of your uterus. If you have had more than one C-section, most doctors will want you to have a C-section for any additional pregnancies. Your doctor will help you decide what kind of delivery is safest for you and your baby.

What happens during a C-section?

Several people may be in the room for your C-section, including:

  • An obstetrician (a doctor who takes care of pregnant women and delivers babies)

  • An anesthesiologist (a doctor who gives you pain medicines and puts you to sleep for surgery)

  • Sometimes a pediatrician (a doctor who takes care of babies and children)

  • Nurses

Doctors will give you medicine so that you don't feel pain during the surgery. Usually they will inject numbing medicine into your back. The numbing medicine keeps you from feeling pain below your waist.

Doctors will take your baby out through a surgical cut in your belly and uterus. The cut can be in the lower or upper part of your uterus:

Lower incision (cut): This is more common. It causes less bleeding and usually heals better.

Upper incision (cut): Doctors use this only when they have to, such as when:

  • You have placenta previa (when the placenta attaches to the wrong part of your uterus)

  • Your baby is sideways in your uterus

  • Your baby is very early

  • Your baby has a birth defect

Doctors will stitch your uterus and belly closed. You'll get antibiotics and a blood transfusion to replace blood you have lost, if you need it.

Your doctor will have you walk around soon after a C-section. Walking helps stop blood clots from forming in your legs or pelvis. Blood clots can travel into your lungs and cause serious problems.

How safe is a C-section?

Medicines and blood transfusions help make C-sections safe. Compared to vaginal birth, C-sections cause:

  • More pain after delivery

  • A longer hospital stay

  • A longer recovery time

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