Planned or Emergency: Having a C-Section


Those dreaded words for a pregnant woman: “You need to have a C-section.” Whether you plan to have a Cesarean delivery before labor begins or undergo an emergency Cesarean, it’s never easy. Plenty of women never plan to have a C-section, but it’s a good idea to be familiar with the procedure in case an emergency arises during labor.

What is a Cesarean delivery?

A Cesarean delivery is the removal of your baby through an incision instead of the birth canal. The doctor will make a cut through the abdomen and uterus, then pull the baby and placenta out. Usually under some type of local anesthesia, most women are awake during this procedure and can be with the baby shortly afterward. A catheter is placed to collect urine during and after the cesarean and an IV provides fluids. After the surgery, the incision is stitched or stapled together.

Planned or emergency

Cesarean deliveries have become increasingly common. A C-section can be planned before the onset of labor if a vaginal delivery would compromise the health of mother or baby. This can happen if:

  • Ultrasound reveals baby is not in a head-down position
  • The stress of labor for mother or baby could make other medical conditions worse
  • Mother has an infection that could pass to the baby
  • Mother is pregnant with multiples
  • Previous pregnancies resulted in cesarean delivery

Sometimes a C-section is the result of complications during labor. You might require an emergency C-section if:

  • Your baby is too large to be delivered through the birth canal (vaginal delivery)
  • Baby is at risk due to complications with the placenta or umbilical cord
  • Labor is hard and stops progressing
  • Baby’s heart rate becomes very slow or very fast; shows signs of fetal distress
  • The placenta separates from the uterine wall to soon or the umbilical cord gets pinched

Cesarean Recovery

The recovery after a C-section is more intense than with a vaginal birth. It requires a lot of rest and limited activity. In most cases, new mothers will stay in the mother/baby unit in the hospital for at least three days after having a cesarean. Though painful or uncomfortable at first, expect the nurses to encourage you to get up and get moving within 24 hours after surgery. This begins the healing process and helps dispel gas buildup. A cesarean incision can take four months or more to heal.

Once home, be sure to:

  1. Avoid lifting any objects that weigh more than your baby
  2. Manage vaginal bleeding
  3. Care for your incision
  4. Drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy meals
  5. Avoid strenuous activities, but try to walk more each day
  6. Keep feeding and changing supplies for your baby on hand so you don’t have to bend and get up often
  7. Arrange for plenty of help with older siblings or household chores
  8. Alert your doctor if you experience fever, foul odors or pus from the incision or vagina, severe headache, excessive bleeding, red painful areas in the breasts or legs, or blood in the urine

It is very common to feel overwhelmed and emotionally drained after delivering a baby. Allow yourself the time to rest and recover. It’s not easy caring for a newborn, and even harder when you are recovering from major surgery! Enjoy and bond with your newborn baby and talk about any anxiety or depression with your support team or partner.

Have you had a C-section? We welcome your stories in the comments!



Image credit: Colin

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