A cesarean birth (C-section) is a surgical procedure to deliver a baby when a vaginal birth isn’t possible or safe. Here’s what to expect from a C-section.
A C-section is performed through incisions in the abdomen and uterus.
A C-section delivery might be planned in advance due to complications, or if you’ve had a previous C-section and aren’t considering a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). However, the need for a first-time C-section might not become obvious until labor begins.
Reasons for a C-section
A C-section may be recommended if:
- Baby is in an abnormal position.
- Baby is in distress.
- Labor isn’t progressing.
- Mom has a major a health concern.
- There’s an issue with the placenta.
- The umbilical cord prolapses (drops) ahead of baby.
If you’ve had a C-section, it’s often possible to attempt a VBAC. In some cases, however, your doctor might recommend a repeat C-section, depending on the type of uterine incision and other factors.
What to Expect During a C-section
C-sections typically are performed under regional anesthesia, which numbs the lower part of the body and allows you to remain awake. Common choices include a spinal block and an epidural block. In an emergency, general anesthesia may be required.
A screen will be used to protect the sterile environment of the incision site. The doctor will make an incision in the abdomen through which the baby will be delivered. The placenta will be removed from your uterus, and the incisions will be closed with sutures.
If regional anesthesia is used, you’ll be able to hear and see the baby right after delivery.
Because a C-section is a surgical procedure, it may require a longer recovery than a vaginal delivery. You’ll likely remain in the hospital for a few days. During your stay, our team will monitor you to make sure you recover well.
You can start breastfeeding as soon as you feel up to it. Our lactation-certified nurses and lactation consultants can teach you how to position your baby so that you’re comfortable.
Once you are home, expect your C-section incision to remain tender for several weeks, although pain should begin decreasing after a few days. Signs of infection include:
- Redness or swelling at incision site
- Worsening pain
You may have vaginal bleeding for up to six weeks. It will slowly become less red, then pink, and then will have more of a yellow or white color.
Pets and Surgical Incisions
It’s important that you keep germs carried by pets away from the C-section incision until it heals.
Tips to prevent a surgical site infection:
- Protect your incision from direct contact with your pet.
- Do not let your pet sniff, lick or get close to your incision.
- Wash your hands after touching your pet and before touching your incision.
- While showering, clean the incision with antibacterial soap.
- Wear clean clothes daily that have not been in contact with your pet.
- Ensure your bedding is clean and not in contact with your pet.
- Avoid sleeping with your pet until your incision heals.
How to Help Yourself Recover from a C-section
- Take it easy. Rest whenever possible, avoid strenuous activity and do not lift anything heavier than your baby.
- Relieve pain. Your health care provider might recommend a heating pad and pain relievers to soothe incision soreness.
- Avoid sex for six weeks after your C-section to help prevent infection.
- Take short walks once you feel up to it. This will increase your strength.