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Alternative namesAbdominal delivery; Abdominal birth; Cesarean section
DefinitionA C-section is the delivery of a baby through an abdominal incision.
A C-section delivery is performed when a vaginal birth is not possible or is not safe for the mother or child.
Surgery is usually done while the woman is awake but anesthetized from the chest to the legs by epidural or spinal anesthesia. An incision is made across the abdomen just above the pubic area. The uterus is opened, the amniotic fluid is drained off, and the baby is delivered.
The baby's mouth and nose are cleansed of fluids and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The baby is handed to the pediatrician or nurse who will make sure that he/she is breathing well. The mother is awake and she can hear and see her baby.
Due to a variety of medical and social factors, C-sections have become fairly common (about 24% of all births in the United States in 2001).
The decision to have a C-section delivery can depend on the obstetrician, the delivery location, and the woman's past deliveries or medical history. Some of the main reasons for C-section instead of vaginal delivery include the following.
Reasons related to the baby:
Reasons related to the mother:
Problems with labor or delivery:
Problems with the placenta or unbilical cord:
C-sections have become very safe procedures. The rate of serious complications, such as maternal death related to C-section delivery, is extremely low.
However, certain risks are higher after C-section than after vaginal delivery:
Risks related to anesthesia:
Risks related to surgery:
Additional risks specific to C-section:
Expectations after surgery
Most mothers and infants recover well, with few problems.
Women who have C-section deliveries can often have a normal vaginal delivery with later pregnancies, depending on the type of C-section performed and the reason the C-section was performed.
About two-thirds of women who attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) delivery are successful. However, there is a small risk of uterine rupture associated with VBAC attempts, which can endanger the mother and the baby. It is important to discuss the benefits and risks of VBAC with your obstetric health care provider.
ConvalescenceThe average hospital stay after C-section is 2 to 4 days. Recovery takes longer than it would from a natural birth. Walking is encouraged the day of surgery to speed recovery. Pain can be managed with oral medications.
Update Date: 5/1/2002Peter Chen, M.D., Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT