Cesarean Section

What Is a Cesarean Section?

A cesarean section is the surgical delivery of a baby. It involves one incision in the mother’s abdomen and another in the uterus.

Cesarean sections are generally avoided before 39 weeks of pregnancy so the child has proper time to develop in the womb. Sometimes, however, complications arise and a C-section must be performed prior to 39 weeks.

Reasons for a C-section delivery include:

  • baby has developmental conditions
  • baby’s head is too big for the birth canal
  • the baby is coming out feet first (breech birth)
  • early pregnancy complications
  • mother’s health problems, such as high blood pressure or unstable heart disease
  • mother has active genital herpes that could be transmitted to the baby
  • previous C-section delivery
  • problems with the placenta, such as placental abruption or placenta previa
  • problems with the umbilical cord
  • reduced oxygen supply to the baby
  • stalled labor
  • the baby is coming out shoulder first (transverse labor)

Risks to you include:

  • Infection. After a C-section, you might be at risk of developing an infection of the lining of the uterus (endometritis).
  • Postpartum hemorrhage. A C-section might cause heavy bleeding during and after delivery.
  • Reactions to anesthesia. Adverse reactions to any type of anesthesia are possible.
  • Blood clots. A C-section might increase your risk of developing a blood clot inside a deep vein, especially in the legs or pelvic organs (deep vein thrombosis). If a blood clot travels to your lungs and blocks blood flow (pulmonary embolism), the damage can be life-threatening.
  • Wound infection. Depending on your risk factors and whether you needed an emergency C-section, you might be at increased risk of an incision infection.
  • Surgical injury. Although rare, surgical injuries to the bladder or bowel can occur during a C-section. If there is a surgical injury during your C-section, additional surgery might be needed.
  • Increased risks during future pregnancies. After a C-section, you face a higher risk of potentially serious complications in a subsequent pregnancy than you would after a vaginal delivery. The more C-sections you have, the higher your risks of placenta previa and a condition in which the placenta becomes abnormally attached to the wall of the uterus (placenta accreta). The risk of your uterus tearing open along the scar line from a prior C-section (uterine rupture) is also higher if you attempt a VBAC.