A C-section is an operation that delivers a baby through a cut in your abdomen and uterus. The uterus, also called the womb, is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies grow in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus.
This procedure is also called a cesarean section or cesarean delivery.
If your placenta is completely covering the opening of the cervix (placenta previa), your baby needs to be delivered by C-section rather than through the vagina (birth canal). Placenta previa can cause severe bleeding. A C-section makes the delivery safer for you and the baby. If the placenta is covering only part of the opening of the cervix, in some cases vaginal delivery may be possible. You should ask your healthcare provider about your choices.
Plan for your care and recovery after the operation, especially if you are to have general anesthesia. Allow for time to rest and try to find other people to help you with your day-to-day duties and the care of your newborn baby.
You should not smoke when you are pregnant because it can hurt the baby. However, if you have been smoking during your pregnancy and know you will have a C-section, you should quit at least 2 weeks before the procedure. Smokers heal more slowly after surgery and have more risk for infections. They are also more likely to have breathing problems during surgery.
Follow instructions provided by your healthcare provider. If you are to have general anesthesia, eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before the procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight and the morning before the procedure. Do not even drink coffee, tea, or water.
If you go into labor or have contractions or bleeding, call your healthcare provider right away.
You are given a regional or general anesthetic. A regional anesthetic numbs the lower part of your body while you stay awake. It should keep you from feeling pain during the operation. A general anesthetic relaxes your muscles, puts you to sleep, and prevents you from feeling pain.
Your healthcare provider makes a cut (incision) below your belly button and into the lower part of the uterus to remove the baby. Your provider removes the baby, placenta, and birth sac. Your provider then sews the uterus and abdomen closed.
Your abdomen will be sore. You may need help with positioning your baby comfortably for feeding. Walking and standing will be uncomfortable for the first few days. Since you will probably be in the hospital for only 2 to 4 days, try to have help at home for the first week or two.
Your healthcare provider may give you an antibiotic to take after the surgery to help stop infection.
Here are some other things you can do to help take care of yourself after a C-section.
The cuts made in the abdomen to deliver the baby are usually horizontal, or across the womb. This allows the muscles in the womb to safely stretch the next time you give birth. Many women who have had a C-section are able to deliver their next baby through the birth canal.
Delivering the baby by C-section may be safer for you and the baby. You may be able to schedule when your baby is born.
You should ask your healthcare provider how these risks apply to you.
Call your provider right away if:
Call during office hours if: