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Cesarean Birth

Frequently Asked Cesarean Questions

What is a cesarean birth?

This is an operation where the baby is delivered through an opening made in the lower abdomen (belly).

Why is it done?

The most common reason for having this surgery is that labor slows down too much, the cervix doesn’t open up enough, or when the baby doesn’t move down far enough through the birth canal.

The second most common reason for the surgery is that the mother has had a previous cesarean done for a previous pregnancy. It is becoming more common for pregnant women who have had cesarean births before to have a successful vaginal delivery without surgery. The decision to try this will have to be made by you and your physician.

Other less common reasons for cesarean births include problems with the baby’s position or problems with the baby’s heartbeat while you are in labor. The cesarean allows the baby to be delivered quickly to help prevent damage to you or the baby.

How is it done?

Usually, an IV will be started to allow fluids and medicines to be given to you through a needle into the veins of your arm. Anesthesia will be used to prevent pain. You may be put to sleep (general anesthesia, usually only used in emergency situations), or you may get medicine in the lower part of your spine (spinal or epidural anesthesia) which numbs your body from slightly above the waist and downward. The doctor will discuss these options with you.

You will have a catheter placed to drain your urine during surgery and left in until the following day. (You will not feel any of this due to your epidural or spinal). Your abdomen will be shaved, cleaned off, and an incision (cut) will be made in the lower part of your abdomen and then through your uterus. The baby and placenta are removed. The incisions are then sewn closed.

When the baby is out, the cord is cut and the baby is cleaned up. The baby will be placed next to you for you to see and hold or may be put into a warmer.

You will then be taken to a recovery room to rest and be watched for several hours. At the same time, the baby may be taken to the nursery to be watched or may go with you to the recovery room.

Are there any complications to a cesarean birth?

Cesarean birth may have the usual risks that can happen with any major abdominal (belly) operation. These risks include loss of blood, infection, and injury to the organs inside your abdomen.

After the surgery, there is a risk of getting pneumonia and blood clots in the veins. All the complications mentioned do not happen very often.

Other complications can come from the anesthesia used to control pain or put you to sleep. Anesthesia is discussed later in this instruction sheet. Anesthesia problems can usually be corrected if they are quickly noticed and treated.

How is the pain controlled during the cesarean surgery?
Anesthesia medicines are given to control the pain or put you to sleep. They are given as general or regional anesthesia. A separate instruction sheet on anesthesia will be given to you. This covers the subject in more detail.

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