Cesarean delivery, also called C-section, is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby by making incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. In the United States, approximately 32 percent of babies are delivered by caesarean.
If you are a mom-to-be, you’re probably hoping for a vaginal delivery rather than a C-section. Aside from financial considerations, the thought of going under the knife, being stuck in the hospital longer and a tougher recovery would make any person cringe. However, in many cases, a C-section is actually a much safer option for you and your baby.
Some factors might require a scheduled C-section such as if:
- You are suffering from a chronic condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease.
- You are HIV-positive or currently have a genital herpes infection. These viruses can be transmitted to the baby during vaginal delivery.
- Your baby has any kind of congenital condition or illness that makes the journey through the birth canal a perilous route.
- Your baby is too big to move without harm through the birth canal. Gaining in excess of the recommended weight during pregnancy plays a major role in this factor.
- Your age requires it. The chances of delivering the baby by C-section as a safer option increase* with age.
- Your baby is feet-first or butt-first (breech), or your baby is positioned side or shoulder first (transverse) and can’t be turned.
- You are carrying multiple babies.
- The placenta is partly/completely covering the opening of the cervix (placenta previa).
- There are other complications such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure induced by pregnancy) or eclampsia and treatments are not working.
If your health care provider recommends that a C-section is needed or might be needed, do not hesitate to ask questions. Make sure you understand why it is necessary, what are the risks involved and if there is any other option open to you.
Unplanned/Unscheduled C-sections can also happen as there are cases when the need for a caesarean is not obvious until the mother is in labor. Here are some of the common reasons:
- Your labor is not progressing. One of the most common reasons why doctors decide on surgery is stalled labor. It occurs when your cervix is not dilating enough despite strong contractions over several hours, or your baby’s head is too large to fit through your cervix.
- Your baby isn’t getting sufficient oxygen or there is an abnormal change in your baby’s heartbeat.
- Your doctor determines you are becoming too fatigued.
- Your baby’s umbilical cord slides through your birth canal ahead of your baby. The loop of umbilical cord will be compressed as the baby passes through, which cuts his/her supply of oxygen.
Whether your C-section is planned or unexpected, here’s what you can expect during surgery.
Preparation, Incision and Delivery
The C-section procedure is usually quick. The procedure normally lasts around 10 minutes or even less, followed by about 30 minutes or so for stitching.
- The C-section procedure starts with routine IV and anesthesia, which is typically an epidural or spinal block. The lower half of the body becomes numb but you will remain awake.
- Preparation includes shaving the abdomen (only if necessary) and washing it with a special antiseptic solution.
- A catheter will be inserted into your bladder and sterile drapes will be placed over your stomach.
At this point, your partner or birthing coach will be dressed in sterile garb and permitted to sit near your head and hold your hand.
- A small screen will be positioned to block your vision of your abdominal area. It is done to keep the field sterile and so you won’t be able to see yourself being cut.
In case of an emergency C-section’s procedure, there might not be enough time to numb you and you’ll have to be completely knocked out with general anesthesia throughout the cesarean section procedure.
- Once you are completely numb or asleep, your doctor will make a miniature incision in the lower part of your abdomen just above the pubic hair line.
- Another incision will be made in the lower part of your uterus. In both incisions, there are two options: A low transverse cut is commonly used as the muscle at the lower part of the uterus is much thinner, hence bleeding is less; or a vertical cut, which is needed if the baby is positioned low in the uterus or in another abnormal position.
- Amniotic fluid is then suctioned out. And finally, as your baby is brought out of your uterus, suctioning is mandatory to clear your baby’s tiny lungs so you can hear his/her first cry. The umbilical cord will also be cut.
- Your placenta will then be removed by your surgeon and he/she will do a thorough check of your reproductive organs.
- Your surgeon will stitch up your uterus with absorbable stitches, then stitch up or staple your abdominal incision. Every layer of the muscle needs to be closed.
To minimize the risk of infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. Oxytocin may also be given through your IV to control bleeding and promote the contraction your uterus.
Having a caesarean section can be a scary thought, especially if you are a first-time mom. However, keeping yourself informed and preparing yourself physically, psychologically and emotionally can make this journey less terrifying. At the end of the day, what’s important is giving birth to your precious baby safely and for you to have a speedy recovery.