If you’re an expectant mom, knowing what to expect before, during, and after a C-section can help you prepare for the birth of your baby.
In this article:
- What Is a C-Section Delivery?
- Why Is There a Need for a C-Section Delivery?
- When Do Doctors Determine If a C-Section Is Necessary?
- Who Are More Likely Candidates for C-Section Deliveries?
- How to Prepare for a Cesarean Delivery?
- What Are the Risks of a C-Section Delivery?
- How Is a C-Section Performed?
- How to Recover from a Cesarean Delivery?
- When Will the C-Section Scar Fully Heal?
A Comprehensive Guide on C-Section Delivery to Help You Prepare and Heal Better
What Is a C-Section Delivery?
Cesarean delivery, also called a cesarean section or C-section, is a surgical procedure a birth doctor uses to deliver a baby. Doctors make an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus.
A woman can expect to have a cesarean birth if this procedure was planned ahead of time with their doctor. But often, needing a first-time C-section won’t become clear until labor is underway.
Why Is There a Need for a C-Section Delivery?
There are some urgent medical reasons which require a c-section procedure.
- The baby is too large to travel through the cervix.
- The mother has multiple gestations, such as twins or triplets.
- The fetus has hydrocephalus, which is excess fluid in the brain.
- The fetus experiences an emergency or severe health complication.
- The fetus is in a breech or transverse position, where the baby’s buttocks or feet are in a position to come out first.
- The labor is not progressing.
- The umbilical cord or placenta has anomalies.
The mother’s physical condition can also determine the need for a planned c-section. Women who have a contagious virus in their system can give this virus to their baby via vaginal birth.
To avoid transmitting a virus and other health complications which may arise during labor, a doctor will have to perform a c-section.
When Do Doctors Determine If a C-Section Is Necessary?
Often, doctors will perform a c-section after the mother starts labor and then encounter problems. Other women opt for planned c-sections as discussed with their doctor or midwife.
Medical experts from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology don’t recommend elective c-sections. Unless vaginal birth has clear and obvious risks to the mother or the baby, it’s best not to schedule a cesarean birth.
Who Are More Likely Candidates for C-Section Deliveries?
Some women are more likely than others to experience a cesarean delivery. If the mother has high-risk health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, a c-section might be necessary.
A uterine condition or a fibroid which obstructs the mother’s cervix also increase the need for a c-section. If the mother has a contagious virus, such as HIV or herpes, vaginal birth will transmit the virus to their baby. A cesarean delivery is necessary in this case.
How to Prepare for a Cesarean Delivery?
You and your doctor will both decide if a c-section is the best course of action for childbirth. Your doctor will help you prepare for the procedure to lower your risk of complications.
To prepare for a c-section, your doctor will record your blood type, in case you need a blood transfusion during the surgery (although blood transfusions are rarely needed during c-sections).
A mother requires more time to recover from a cesarean delivery than from vaginal birth, so prepare your household by arranging to have added help around the house. Your baby can also benefit from the added attention and extra hands.
Even if you don’t plan to have a cesarean delivery, it’s best to prepare for the unexpected instances during labor. During prenatal checkups, your doctor will discuss your risk factors for cesarean delivery and how you can lower those risks before childbirth.
What Are the Risks of a C-Section Delivery?
A cesarean delivery is a major operation which can be highly risky. These are some of the potential risks and side effects of c-section delivery.
- Blood loss
- Injury to an organ, like the bladder or bowel
- Adverse reactions to anesthesia or medication
- Wound infection
- Blood clots
- Potential complications in future pregnancies
- Some women may experience endometritis
What is endometritis? It is the inflammation of the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. Pregnant mothers may suffer from lower abdominal pain, fever, and vaginal bleeding and discharge.
The baby may have a small risk of surgical injuries, like accidental scrapes and nicks. Also, a c-section baby has a higher chance of developing respiratory issues.
Labor helps clear your baby’s lungs of fluid. If the C-section is performed before labor, your baby can still have fluid in their lungs, which clears on its own after a few days.
How Is a C-Section Performed?
During a cesarean delivery, the birth doctor or obstetrician makes an incision or cut across the abdomen and womb. The incision is normally between 10 and 20 cm long.
The incisions made may be transverse (horizontal) or vertical (longitudinal), depending on the conditions of the mother and the fetus.
- A transverse incision has less bleeding and heals well. This type of incision also increases a woman’s chance for vaginal birth in future pregnancies.
- Vertical incisions extend from the navel down to the pubic hairline. While a transverse uterine incision, which is most often used, extends across the pubic hairline.
During the c-section delivery, the mother is under sedation with anesthesia, such as an epidural, which is a spinal anesthetic. Under sedation, the woman’s lower body will remain pain-free, even if she is not fully unconscious.
During the procedure, the mother may experience a tugging or pulling sensation. Doctors sometimes set up a drape to cover the mother’s view of the operation, as this could distress her despite being pain-free.
How to Recover from a Cesarean Delivery?
Following a cesarean delivery, a mother can take the following steps for a speedier recovery.
- Take medications as directed by the doctor
- Drink plenty of water to maintain hydrated
- Get ample rest
- Support the abdomen by using a pregnancy belt or pillow
- Maintain a healthy diet so your body gets the right nutrients for creating healthy tissues
Doctors recommend refraining from too much physical activity once the mother returns home. In the 4-6 weeks after the surgery, patients should avoid lifting heavy objects, strenuous exercise, or having sex.
After a c-section, a woman and her baby can expect to remain in the hospital for 2–4 days. The mother may experience pain at the incision site, including bleeding and cramping for 4–6 weeks.
The severity and duration of these symptoms vary for different women, but the symptoms should improve at a faster pace as time passes.
When Will the C-Section Scar Fully Heal?
The c-section scar fully heals after around six weeks when the incision lines have matured. After the healing period, the scar is not disturbed when strenuous activities are performed.
Although the scar may be intact after healing, it will still have a reddish-purple color which is completely normal. The scar color remains for about six months before it fades into a less noticeable white line.
Some c-section scars may have a raised characteristic, also known as a keloid. In this case, a hyper reaction to the healing process can cause the scar to grow outside of its original boundaries along the wound.
Watch the procedure of cesarean delivery in this video from Nucleus Medical Media:
C-section deliveries can be a daunting procedure, so it’s best to be prepared for anything that can happen in labor and delivery. Whether you made the decision to do a c-section or vaginal birth, diligent preparation and unrushed recovery can lower c-section complications for both you and your baby.
Have you experienced a cesarean delivery? Share your stories with us in the comments section below!