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Answers to Common Questions About Cesarean Delivery

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on May 31, 2017

As your baby is ready for arrival, your doctor may have to deliver him or her by cesarean section.

Also known as a C-section, this surgical procedure might be necessary if the baby is large or descending breech; the cervix is not opening enough; or there are health complications with either the baby or mother.

The decision to deliver by C-section also might be precipitated by an emergency.

Here are some answers to questions you might have about the procedure, provided by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:


What type of anesthesia will be used during the procedure?

You will be given either general anesthesia, an epidural block, or a spinal block. If general anesthesia is used, you will not be awake during the delivery. An epidural block numbs the lower half of the body.

How is the procedure performed?

An incision is made through your skin and the wall of the abdomen. The skin incision may be transverse (horizontal or "bikini") or vertical, near the pubic hairline. The muscles in your abdomen are separated and may not need to be cut. Another incision will be made in the wall of the uterus. The incision in the wall of the uterus also will be either transverse or vertical.

The baby will be delivered through the incisions, the umbilical cord will be cut, and then the placenta will be removed. The uterus will be closed with stitches that will dissolve in the body. Stitches or staples are used to close your abdominal skin.

What are the complications?

Some complications occur in a small number of women and usually are easily treated:

  • Infection
  • Blood loss
  • Blood clots in the legs, pelvic organs, or lungs
  • Injury to the bowel or bladder
  • Reaction to medications or to the anesthesia that is used

What should I expect after the procedure?

If you are awake for the surgery, you can probably hold your baby right away. You will be taken to a recovery room or directly to your room. Your blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing rate, amount of bleeding, and abdomen will be checked regularly. If you are planning on breastfeeding, be sure to let your health care provider know. Having a cesarean delivery does not mean you will not be able to breastfeed your baby. You should be able to begin breastfeeding right away.

How long will I need to recover?

You may need to stay in bed for a while. The first few times you get out of bed, a nurse or other adult should help you. A hospital stay after a cesarean birth usually is a couple of days. The length of your stay depends on the reason for the cesarean birth and on how long it takes for your body to recover. When you go home, you may need to take special care of yourself and limit your activities.

What helps with recovery?

Soon after surgery, the catheter is removed from the bladder. The abdominal incision will be sore for the first few days. Your doctor can prescribe pain medication for you to take after the anesthesia wears off. A heating pad may be helpful. There are many different ways to control pain. Talk to your health care provider about your options.

What should I expect during recovery?

While you recover, the following things may happen:

  • Mild cramping, especially if you are breastfeeding
  • Bleeding or discharge for about 4–6 weeks
  • Bleeding with clots and cramps
  • Pain in the incision

Approximately 1.3 million cesarean deliveries were performed in the U.S. last year, which represents about 32 percent of all deliveries.

For more information about delivery options, you can contact the Johnson Memorial Women’s Health Specialists in Franklin at 317.738.0630 or Whiteland at 317.530.3111.

Topics: Birth