Pregnancy Information Childbirth Cesarean Section

A C-section, or cesarean section, is a surgical procedure used when vaginal delivery is either not possible or not advised. A C-section is major abdominal surgery and is usually considered an emergency procedure.

In America, about 25 percent of deliveries are via C-section, either due to emergency surgery or if the C-section is planned from the beginning of the pregnancy. Some authorities believe this percentage is too high: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), no country need have a C-section rate of higher than fifteen percent.

Cesarean Section Procedure

If a cesarean section is required a surgical incision is made in the lower abdomen, followed by a second incision in the uterus. The baby is then removed through the incision, after which the incision is closed.

On average, a C-section takes 45 minutes to an hour to perform. The C-section incision is normally a horizontal incision made above the pubic bone (often called a “bikini cut”). Fetal or placental location sometimes makes horizontal incisions impractical, in which case a vertical incision is made.

General or Regional Anesthesia?

Most women are unaware that their pregnancy will require a cesarean section until they’re in labor. In such cases, C-sections are emergency procedures, and general anesthetic is required.

If a C-section is planned, regional anesthetic is an option, allowing the mother to be awake for the delivery.

Cesarean SectionReasons for a C-Section

A number of pregnancy complications may require a C-section delivery. In many of these situations, a C-section can save the lives of both the mother and the child. Approximately one third of all C-sections occur because labor fails to progress-the longer a woman is in labor, the greater the stress placed on both her and her fetus.

Other reasons for a C-section include:

  • active herpes lesions (a C-section prevents infant infection)
  • breech birth (legs or buttocks first)
  • compressed umbilical cord
  • fetal distress
  • fetal illness
  • complications due to multiple births
  • pelvic disorders
  • placental bleeding.

C-Section Risks

A C-section birth increases the risk of postpartum infection and blood clotting problems. In addition, maternal death rates, while low, are up to five times greater than with natural births.

A planned C-section is often scheduled for the pregnant woman’s due date. If the due date is incorrectly calculated, the C- section may be performed too early, resulting in a premature birth.

Recovering from a Cesarean

A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery, with a long recovery period. After a C-section, most women are hospitalized for two to four days. Full recovery takes from five to six weeks. During the recovery period, women should avoid overstretching, reaching or picking up heavy items. If possible, they should have help looking after the baby for the first weeks after delivery.

A C-section often means any future pregnancies will also require cesarean delivery. A natural birth is possible after a C- section, but a risk exists that the uterus will rupture along the old incision scar. Of course, in many cases the reason for the initial C-section will be a factor in a future pregnancy, in which case delivery will be by planned C-section.


Beers, M.H.