A caesarean section (c-section) is a surgical procedure in which a baby is born through an incision made in the mother’s abdominal wall and the wall of the uterus (womb). Your baby may need to be born by caesarean section if there are serious problems that prevent the baby being born by a normal vaginal birth.
If you have no serious problems with your pregnancy or labour a vaginal birth is the safest way for your baby to be born. Most women have vaginal births (about three in four).
Types of Caesarean
The only difference between caesareans is where the cuts (incisions) are made to the uterus. After your caesarean, ask the obstetrician what kinds of cuts were made. This will be useful information when you are making decisions about future births.
The two types of cuts that can be used when you have a caesarean section are:
A lower segment section (LSCS) –– will be used wherever possible. This is a horizontal cut through the abdomen and a horizontal cut through the lower part of the uterus, sometimes known as a ‘bikini line’ incision. These cuts heal better, are less visible and are less likely to cause problems in future pregnancies.
A classical section – refers to a vertical cut on the uterus. The cut on the abdomen may be horizontal or vertical. This type of incision is usually only used for extreme emergencies or in specific situations, such as if the placenta is lying very low, if your baby is lying sideways or if your baby is very small. It can increase the chance of having problems in later pregnancies and births.
To prepare for your caesarean:
You will need to fast – so no food or drink, including water – for six hours before a planned caesarean. If it is an emergency caesarean, the doctor will ask you when you last had any food or drink so they know how to proceed with your operation.
You will have blood tests taken.
If the doctor believes you are at increased risk of blood clots, you may be measured for compression stockings to wear during the operation.
The theatre team will clean your abdomen with antiseptic and cover it with sterile cloths to reduce the risk of infection. You will have a catheter inserted into your bladder so that it remains empty during the operation.
The actual operation usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes. It involves:
The doctor will make a cut in your abdomen and your uterus (both about 10 cm long).
Your baby will be lifted out through the cut. Sometimes the doctor may use forceps to help lift out your baby’s head.
Your baby will be carefully checked.
You will be able to hold your baby soon afterwards. Skin-to-skin contact can strengthen your early bond with your baby and make breastfeeding easier.
The umbilical cord will be cut and your placenta removed.
An injection is usually given to make your uterus contract and to minimize bleeding.
Antibiotics will be given to reduce the risk of infection.
The layers of muscle, fat and skin will be stitched back together and a dressing is then applied over the wound.
A number of things will occur after you have a caesarean, including:
You will be cared for in the recovery room until you are ready to go to the ward.
If you have had a general anesthetic, you will most likely wake up in the recovery room. You should be able to see your baby once you are awake.
The earlier you start to breastfeed, the easier it is likely to be for both you and your baby. Having a caesarean can make breastfeeding harder to start.
It is important to tell your midwife or doctor when you are feeling pain so they can give you something to ease it. Pain relief medication may make you a little drowsy.
You can start to drink after any nausea has passed.
The midwife or doctor will tell you when it’s okay to eat again.
Walking around can help with recovery. It can also stop blood clots and swelling in your legs.
You may also have an injection to stop blood clots.
You may need antibiotics after the operation.
You may have trouble with bowel movements for a short time after the operation. It should help to drink plenty of water and eat high-fibre food.
Once your dressing is taken off, keep the wound clean and dry. This will help it to heal faster and reduce the risk of infection.