While it's true that 2 out of 3 births are vaginal, 1 in 3 women have the chance of needing a c-section in order to bring their child into the world. Sometimes this procedure is pre-planned, and sometimes it's a last-minute decision that has to be made for the health of the mother and/or child. Because many occurrences of this procedure are not planned in advance, it's important for any expecting mother to understand the ins and outs of a c-section procedure. In the event that a vaginal birth is no longer a feasible option, a new mother should feel confident and prepared for the possibility of needing to move to plan c.
What is a c-section?
A c-section, also called a caesarean section is a surgical procedure in which incisions are made in the mother's abdomen and uterus in order to deliver a child. If all goes well, a c-section will typically take 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
As with any major surgery, there can be a chance of complications associated with having a c-sections such as infection, blood loss, blood clots, or injury to internal organs. While there will be risk associated with any surgery, c-sections are a very common procedure and many patients experience few to no complications following the operation.
When is a c-section necessary?
Now that you know what a caesarean section is, you might be wondering in which cases it might be necessary to have this procedure in place of vaginal birth. Here are some of the most common times when a caesarean section might be substituted for a vaginal birth:
Complications during pregnancy
Scenarios such as having had a c-section in an earlier pregnancy, other previous surgeries to your uterus that leave scar tissue, complications with the placenta, a pre-existing condition like HIV or HSV, diabetes or high blood pressure, or the birth of twins, triplets, etc can warrant the need for a c-section.
Complications during labor
Complications during labor can include the baby being too big to pass through the vaginal opening, the baby not being in the correct position (feet or shoulder coming out first), labor being too slow or stopping completely, umbilical cord prolapse, fetal distress, or the child having a disability that makes it dangerous for them to exit the body through the vaginal opening.
While it is more rare than planning for a vaginal birth, some mothers and doctors will choose to schedule a c-section birth ahead of time. These cases are most often due to the way the baby is positioned, the presence of multiple babies being delivered, or because the mother has had a previous c-section. Women who have had an earlier c-section procedure tend to continue having c-sections as existing scars, especially vertical ones, can increases the risk of uterine rupture during vaginal birth.
While less common, some women will also opt for a c-section in place of a vaginal birth because they fear the pain of a vaginal birth or the potential side effects that can come with a vaginal birth.
How long is the recovery period after a c-section?
The short answer is 4-6 weeks.
Most new mother's who undergo a c-section can expect to stay in the hospital for about 4 days post-op. You will likely have a good amount of cramping and some bleeding for the first few days after the procedure. This is a sign that your uterus is shrinking and healing accordingly. Your doctor will likely give you medications to help manage any pain and discomfort you might experience.
Around the 2 week mark you'll start having follow-up appointments with your doctor and should feel quite a bit better. Cramping and pain should be starting to subside and you'll find it easier to move around.
By the 4-6 week point you should feel almost completely healed and back to your normal routine!
Whether you're planning a c-section or not, it's important to be mentally prepared and informed about this method of childbirth in the event that you experience complications during labor. At the end of the day, if you have a doctor you trust and who communicates with you, you should be in good hands and be able to welcome your child into this world in the way that makes the most sense for your body.