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Cesarean Section What You Need to Know About It

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Authored by Donna Johnson in Pregnancy
Published on 10-02-2009

For a variety of reasons, many women find themselves giving birth via cesarean section these days. Sometimes a cesarean section is due to an emergency that arises while the woman is in labor and other times a cesarean section is scheduled. If you’re one of the women who may end up having a cesarean section, there are some things you need to know about the procedure.

First of all, you should know that a cesarean section is not intended as a way to give birth vaginally just because you don’t want to. The process of a vaginal birth is much less stressful and invasive for both you and your baby. Your recovery will also typically be far less difficult after a vaginal birth than it will be after a cesarean section. You also do not have to schedule a cesarean section in order to avoid permanent vaginal stretching or in order to have a tubal ligation after you give birth.

There are several situations that do require that you give birth via cesarean section, however. One of the most common of these situations is a breech presentation. In a breech presentation, your baby is not positioned with her head down, but instead has her buttocks or feet are pointing down. This can be a dangerous situation for both you and your baby. If you’ve had a prior cesarean section, your obstetrician may recommend that you have cesarean sections for subsequent births to avoid rupture along the previous birth’s incision. Some obstetricians will allow you to attempt a VBAC or vaginal birth after Cesarean, but not all will do so.

If you or your baby develops signs of distress during labor, such as a drop in heart rate, a cesarean section will usually be done. Multiple births such as twins or triplets are commonly delivered via cesarean section, as it is rare that all the babies will present properly for a vaginal delivery. A cesarean section is rarely done because your baby is too large to deliver vaginally, but this does sometimes happen.

The typical cesarean section is performed while you are awake, with an epidural instead of general anesthesia. In emergency cesarean section procedures, you may be put under general anesthesia, as there may be no time to allow an epidural to take effect. The typical cesarean section incision is placed low across the abdomen, just above the pubic hair. This incision is often horizontal, but may be vertical. An incision is also made in the uterus, which again can be horizontal or vertical. The exact placement and orientation of the incisions will vary depending on your body type and the situation at hand. Your baby and placenta will be delivered through these incisions, and both incisions will be sutured up after the birth.

Recovery from a cesarean section is more involved than recovery from a vaginal delivery, as it is a surgical procedure. You will typically remain in the hospital for one or two days longer than you would if you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. You will have to deal not only with normal postpartum bleeding, but also with caring for the cesarean section incision to keep it clean and free from infection. You may be placed on longer restriction from activities such as driving after a cesarean section than you would after a vaginal birth.

Talk openly with your doctor about cesarean sections ahead of time, especially if you know you fall into a group that carries a high chance of having to give birth this way. If you are prepared for the procedure and recovery and realize that a cesarean section is not the “easy way out” when giving birth, your birth and recovery experiences will go much more smoothly.

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