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Alternative Names Return to topAbdominal delivery; Abdominal birth; Cesarean section
Definition Return to top
A C-section, also called a cesarean section, is the delivery of a baby through a surgical opening in the lower belly area.
Description Return to top
A C-section delivery is performed when a vaginal birth is not possible or is not safe for the mother or child.
Surgery is usually done while the woman is awake but numbed from the chest to the feet. This is done by giving her epidural or spinal anesthesia.
The surgeon make a cut across the belly just above the pubic area. The uterus and amniotic sac are opened, and the baby is delivered.
The health care team clears the baby's mouth and nose of fluids, and the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The pediatrician or nurse makes sure that the infant's breathing is normal and that the baby is stable.
The mother is awake, and she can hear and see her baby. The father or another support person is often able to be with the mother during the delivery.
Why the Procedure is Performed Return to top
The decision to have a C-section delivery can depend on the obstetrician, the delivery location, and the woman's past deliveries or medical history. Some reasons for having C-section instead of vaginal delivery are:
Reasons related to the baby:
Reasons related to the mother:
Problems with labor or delivery:
Problems with the placenta or umbilical cord:
Risks Return to top
A C-section is a safe procedure. The rate of serious complications is extremely low. However, certain risks are higher after C-section than after vaginal delivery. These include:
A C-section may also cause problems in future pregnancies. This includes a higher risk for:
All surgeries carry risks. Risks due to anesthesia may include:
Risks related to surgery in general may include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Most mothers and infants recover well, with few problems.
Women who have C-section deliveries can have a normal vaginal delivery with later pregnancies, depending on the type of C-section performed and the reason the C-section was performed.
Many women who attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) delivery are successful. However, there is a small risk of uterine rupture associated with VBAC attempts, which can endanger the mother and the baby. It is important to discuss the benefits and risks of VBAC with your obstetric health care provider.
Recovery Return to top
The average hospital stay after C-section is 2 to 4 days. Recovery takes longer than it would from a natural birth. Walking is encouraged the day of surgery to speed recovery. Pain can be managed with medications taken by mouth.
References Return to top
Landon MB. Cesarean delivery. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, ed. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2007: Chap.19.Update Date: 5/2/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine; Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.