Cesarean Section (also known as a c-section) is a surgery performed by a doctor where they make an incision in a woman’s abdomen and uterus and remove the baby. Approximately 22% of all pregnancies end in c-section.
An unplanned c-section may be the result of several factors failure to progress, the baby is in a breech position, multiple babies, position of the placenta, various medical conditions or there is an immediate danger to the mother and/or baby. Not all c-sections are considered emergency c-sections but rather the result of something that the doctors or medical staff could not anticipate happening.
Often after a c-section is performed, doctors will prefer to deliver all subsequent babies by c-section. To attempt a vaginal birth after a c-section, this is referred to as a VBAC. Discuss with your caregiver if you wish to attempt a VBAC, as some doctors may not make this available under their care, or your insurance carrier may not support the procedure. If a planned section is decided upon, you and your doctor will usually schedule the date that your baby will be born.
Assuming that your c-section is not an emergency, your doctor will have you sign consent forms to the procedure and then take you to the OR (operating room). After that, you will meet with the anesthesiologist and decide on whether to use an epidural, spinal block or general anesthesia (this is rare in non-emergency situations).
The next step after receiving your anesthesia, you will have a cathedar put in place as you won’t be able to control the lower half of your body. You will also receive an IV to administer fluids and any additional medication if needed. A screen will be put up but you can ask for it to be lowered if you wish to see the birth of your baby.
Your partner will usually be allowed in the OR assuming this is not an emergency procedure. If they are allowed, they will be asked to change into scrubs and be allowed to sit by your head.
The doctor will check to make sure that you cannot feel anything in the lower half of your body, usually by pinching your skin. If all is a go, then your doctor will make an incision right above your pubic bone (bikini cut) through the abdomen and then through the uterus. Once that is done, they will lift out the baby! Depending on the circumstances and your wishes, they may let you hold the baby once the doctor cuts the cords, or give them to the pediatrician/nurse. At this point, the doctor will deliver the placenta and then stitch you back up.
There are various ways to stitch the mother back up, and each doctor will have a preferred method but this can be discussed. Some may do stitched, others will use staples or steri strips/glue or a combination of them all. Some doctors will want to also put in drains and this will require some additional incisions depending on placement.
Once you are stitched up, you will be sent to recovery to be monitored. If you feel up to it and plan on breastfeeding, you can ask to have your baby with you and give it a try!
There are many pain medications that you can request after your c-section. Discuss with your doctor which one will work best for you. The sooner you are able to walk, and use the bathroom, the sooner you can be released if there are no complications. You will usually be put on a liquid only diet the first 24 hours until your bowels start working again.
Many women post-op find that using a girdle (sometimes provided by the hospital) to bind their stomach area, helps with pain management and allows them to get up more easily (and I found this to be great with my first c-section as I had been suffering through bronchitis and was prone to coughing fits post-op).
Recovery time can take anywhere from several days to several months, depending on how fast you heal, any complications and how experienced your doctor is at performing the surgery. You will be put on lifting restrictions for several weeks, and should try to get as much rest to expedite the healing process as you can.