Cesarean section Demystified:
Everything You Need to Know

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Cesarean section is a birth procedure in which pregnancy is delivered by cutting through the lower abdomen into the womb of a pregnant woman. Every expecting mom wishes to have normal vaginal delivery, but when things don’t go as expected, cesarean birth may be a favorable option to guarantee the life of both baby and mom.

Here, we hope to satisfy your curiosity, examining possible reasons for C-section, how it is performed, what its potential challenges are, what to generally expect and how to cope if it becomes an inevitable option for you.

What is a Cesarean section?

Doctors performing a Cesarean section on a due pregnant woman

Cesarean section is basically a surgical childbirth procedure in which incision is made through a full-term pregnant woman’s abdomen into her uterus to deliver her baby or fetuses.

Cesarean birth may be necessary if; labor is not progressing well, the baby’s position in the uterus makes it too dangerous to give birth vaginally, the baby is experiencing stress or if there are other high-risk conditions.

Often, Cesarean section is planned. This usually happens when a healthcare provider knows of any potential risk to the mom or her baby well ahead of time. You will be informed weeks or months before delivery to ensure you’re prepared for this experience.

You don’t have to be frightened if you’re scheduled for c-section because the available technology nowadays tremendously helps to make the process safe and uneventful. Besides, caesarean is known a very safe way of childbirth.

Interestingly, some expecting moms now specifically request to have Cesarean section on their own, in what is called “Elective Cesarean”, even without any predisposing factors, purposely to avoid the rigors of labor and vaginal delivery.

Why would a pregnant woman require a Cesarean section?

Obviously, there are critical reasons why a doctor may advise c-section for childbirth. Cesarean section may be recommended:

·    In case of uterine rupture: When the uterus ruptures in build-up to labor and vaginal delivery, c-section becomes inevitable because vaginal delivery is no longer possible.

Also, moms who previously had c-section have increased risk of uterine rupture during labor when vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is attempted in subsequent pregnancy. In such scenario, cesarean birth may be recommended. 

·    In case of Placenta previa: Placenta previa is a condition where the embryo is implanted lower in the uterus, in a manner the cervix opening is completely or partially covered by the placenta. Any expecting mom diagnosed of this condition, may require a c-section

·    In case of fetus(es) in breech position: If the baby presents an abnormal breech position in the womb, vaginal delivery may be practically difficult and life-threatening, hence c-section option.

·     In case of failure in labor progression: In condition of a cervix that failed to dilate with no labor progression. After all efforts of inducing labor proved abortive, c-section may be recommended

·    In case of lack of oxygen supply to the fetus or fetal distress: Possibly due to any unfortunate reason, if the fetus isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrition supply to the extent that fetal life is threatened or when the baby is perceived to be under stress, c-section may become necessary.

·    In case of multiple births especially from triplets, quadruplets and more.

Other reasons include placental abruption, too small pelvis for the passage of the baby, risk factors in obese moms, repeated caesarean section in past deliveries, over-sized baby (macrosomia), prevention of disease transmission to the baby, cases of fetal congenital defects, illnesses such as high risk diabetes or hypertension, among others.

How does an obstetrician conduct a Cesarean section?

In preparing for c-section, an anesthesia or epidural is first administered to ensure the patient doesn’t feel any pain at all during the entire procedure. A screen is usually put across you so that you won’t see what’s going on even when you are on epidural.

Following the incision into the uterus, amniotic fluid is sucked-out; the baby is delivered as well as the placenta. Afterwards, the abdomen is stitched up by sutures. A typical c-section procedure last between 30 - 90 minutes.

Cesarean section as mentioned earlier involves cutting through the abdomen into the uterus either by vertical (classical) or horizontal (transverse or bikini) incision.

Vertical incision, extending from the navel to pubic zone, is kept as an option when there is an emergency medical condition such as congenital birth defect or placenta previa etcetera, and the doctors want the baby to be born quickly.

Most common type of incision made during a c-section is the lower (uterine) segment Caesarean section (LSCS) in which incision is made horizontally, extending from side to side above the pubic hairline.

This is preferred because it results in minimal blood loss, heals with stronger scar and has fewer risk of uterine rupture in the event of vaginal delivery attempt in subsequent pregnancy.

Generally, the type of incision made during caesarean is a major factor that determines possibility of Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) in subsequent pregnancy.

How long is the recovery time?

Soon after the operation is over, the woman usually experiences a feeling of nausea and weakness. These probably indicate after-effects of the given anesthesia prior to c-section. Usually, you’ll be uncomfortable for a few days. When you start feeling better, you’ll be able to hold or caress your baby and begin to baby-feed if this is what you have planned.

However, recovery may vary from woman to woman. It depends on each woman’s stamina and endurance. Some moms were able to move 48 hours after c-section, while others stay in best rest for 3-10 days.

It’s important you rest and avoid any kind of work that may stress you up for at least 6 months after c-section. Postnatal exercises are especially important after a Caesarean to get your muscles working again. Following the advice of your doctor and taking your prescribed medications will help you recover in good time.

What are the possible risks of Cesarean section procedure?

There are possible risks or side-effects that may result from a Cesarean section for the mom or her newborn(s). Despite these risks, stay positive and be optimistic about Cesarean birth experience.

Although these side-effects rarely occur, moms may:

  • Become prone to infection at the site of caesarean cut.
  • Be unfortunate to have injury in other organs in her body during the operation.
  • Suffer excess blood loss during c-section, possibly leading to anemia or hypovolemic shock that may require blood transfusion.
  • Impaired bowel function.

On the other hand, the baby born through c-section may:

  • Be pre-mature; born before the due-date.
  • Have under-developed respiratory system; requiring neonatal assistance and support.
  • Score low in its first physical test.
  • Be injured during the time of delivery.

Again, these side effects, as you can see, are flimsy and rarely occur. Understanding Cesarean section procedure will definitely help you feel less confused if it becomes necessary.

However, your healthcare provider will recommend the choices best suited to your specific need if and when Cesarean birth becomes inevitable option for you.

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