Most people would be surprised to learn that nearly 30% of all children in the United States are delivered by C-Sections. A surgical method of giving birth, a C-Section–or Cesarean Section (sometimes called a Cesarean Birth) –involves making an incision along the abdomen and through the uterus. The baby is then delivered via this incision rather than vaginally.
For some women, a C-Section is planned out in advance. For others, this surgical technique is used as an urgent alternative due to complications with vaginal birth.
What Happens During a C-Section?
C-Section deliveries most often occur under regional anesthesia (meaning you won’t feel anything from the waist down). Depending on your situation, the anesthesiologist may employ a spinal block or epidural to help control pain and discomfort.
During a C-Section, your surgeon will make an incision through the abdomen and uterus.
On rare occasions, a vertical incision, also known as a classical cesarean section, may be used. More commonly, however, your physician will employ a horizontal incision, also known as a low transverse cesarean section (LTCS). Once the incision is made, the baby will be delivered. Then the wound will be cleaned and closed.
Whether you are planning on delivering via Cesearean or simply want to be prepared for the possibility, you can talk over your options with your OBGYN or Midwife to make sure your preferences are documented in your birth plan.
How Does a C-Section Compare to Vaginal Birth?
Whether your baby is delivered vaginally or via C-Section, recovery and healing will take time.
With a vaginal delivery, you will likely be discharged from the hospital more quickly (assuming there are no complications). While recovery from a C-Section may initially last a bit longer, there is some evidence to suggest that those who undergo a C-Section may be less prone to certain long-term complications, such as urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Vaginal deliveries are generally considered to be the least invasive and lowest risk birthing option. But there are cases in which specific risk factors may make a C-Section a safer approach, so make sure to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about what your optimum birthing plan looks like.
When Should You Get a C-Section?
There are some situations, however, in which a C-Section will unquestionably be the safest and best way to deliver your baby. Often, these may be emergency situations in which a C-Section will save both the life of the mother and of the baby. In other instances, a C-Section delivery may limit the possible occurrence of dangerous complications.
Your OBGYN or Midwife may recommend a C-Section if:
- Your labor stops progressing: The most common reason for a C-Section delivery is stalled labor. This occurs when the cervix does not open sufficiently even when adequate contractions have been occurring for hours. In these cases, C-Sections are often the safest way to deliver your baby.
- You have had a previous C-Sections: Many women are able to attempt having a Trial of Labor After C-Sections (TOLAC) and are hopeful for a successful vaginal birth after a C-Section (or VBAC), but for some the risks may outweigh the benefits. Once you undergo a C-Section, it may be more challenging to have a vaginal birth.
- You have a heart or brain condition or other health concerns: If you have significant health concerns, your OBGYN or Midwife may recommend C-Sections.
- You have an emergency situation: There are some situations in which an emergency C-Section is needed to safely deliver a baby. For example, a C-Section will need to be performed quickly if your baby’s heartbeat indicates fetal distress. Similarly, if medical staff notice other emergency indications, such as a prolapsed umbilical cord or a mechanical obstruction of the birth canal, your OBGYN or Midwife may perform a C-Section delivery.
- You are delivering multiple babies: Delivering more than one child can significantly increase the risks of complications. So if you’re expecting more than one baby, your OBGYN or Midwife may decide that it’s safer to plan on a C-Section delivery. This is especially true if you’re giving birth to triplets (or more) or your twins are not in the optimum birthing position.
- Your baby isn’t in the right position: A healthy vaginal delivery depends on your baby being in the right position. If your baby is not in the right position when delivery begins, your OBGYN or Midwife may use a C-Section for delivery in order to avoid possible complications.
As with vaginal delivery, there are some risks associated with a C-Section delivery. Those risks include the possibility of infection or blood clots, as well as negative reactions to anesthesia or postpartum hemorrhaging. These complications are relatively uncommon, but it’s important that you discuss these possibilities with your OBGYN or Midwife before proceeding.
For most women, there is a possibility that a C-Section may increase certain risks and hazards associated with subsequent pregnancies. Your OBGYN or Midwife will be able to discuss your future VBAC options with you.
Does a C-Section Mean You Cannot Have a Vaginal Delivery in the Future?
Many women who undergo C-Sections will present increased risks of complications in future pregnancies. For that reason, your OBGYN or Midwife will want to evaluate the safety of a vaginal delivery after C-Section surgery (VBAC).
This does not mean that a C-Section will strictly rule out the possibility of a future vaginal delivery. In fact, many women do go on to deliver vaginally after having had a C-Section in the past. But your OBGYN or Midwife will likely want to be more careful in their approach and have a consultation to review your operative report and discuss risks, benefits of both modes of delivery
What is C-Section Recovery Like?
It usually takes most people six weeks or so to fully recover from their C-Section delivery. While everyone heals at a different rate, your recovery may generally look something like this:
- Days 1-3: You’ll likely spend the first few days in the hospital recovering from the surgical procedure. It may take several hours for anesthesia to wear off, but usually you’ll be able to breastfeed as soon as you feel up to it.
- Weeks 1-2: For the first couple of weeks after the procedure, you’ll want to rest where and when you can. Most women will be advised to avoid picking up heavy objects or engaging in activities such as driving. You’ll be able to talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about pain management options.
- Weeks 3-6: You’ll check in with your OBGYN or Midwife to ensure that your incision is healing properly and without infection. Continue to address pain using medication (most of which are safe for breastfeeding purposes–but you can still check with your OBGYN or Midwife if you have concerns).
You’ll want to avoid sexual intercourse for six weeks after your C-Section delivery in order to prevent the possibility of infection and unplanned pregnancy. And you should contact your healthcare provider immediately if you are feeling depressed or feel like you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Get Your C-Section Answers
A C-Section is a relatively common surgical procedure in the obstetric world, but it’s still very reasonable to have questions about what happens before, during, and after delivery. The team of OBGYNs and Midwives at NSAGO are here to answer your C-Section questions. Our providers track their patients’ C-section and VBAC rates If you’d like to learn more or have questions, please contact us in Wilmette or Glenview today!