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Cesarean Section

What to expect with a c section

A cesarean section, sometimes spelled caesarean section, is a process of delivering a baby using a surgical incision through a mother's abdomen to access the uterus. A cesarean delivery is usually performed if a conventional vaginal delivery would endanger the health of the baby or the mother, although c sections are sometimes performed as a way to schedule the exact date of birth.

Types of Cesarean Section Procedures

There are several different types of cesarean sections (often abbreviated to c sections):

  • The lower uterine segment section, also known as the transverse section, is the most commonly used c section procedure; it involves a horizontal incision just above the bladder and is preferred due to less blood loss and ease of repair.
  • The classical section, which is not performed frequently today due to the higher frequency of complications, involves a longitudinal incision.
  • The emergency cesarean section is a procedure which is performed after labor has commenced.
  • The repeat cesarean section is performed when a mother has had a prior c section, usually through the previous c section scar.

Risks Associated with Cesarean Sections

While a common procedure, cesarean births do carry a higher number of risks to both mother and baby than are associated with vaginal births. For the mother, there are the usual risks associated with major surgery and anesthesia. While still a very small risk, the mortality rate for mothers involved in cesarean deliveries is about three times as high as for those who give birth vaginally. In the case of the baby, complications from a cesarean section include a greater risk of fetal injury due to the incision and extraction, and neonatal depression caused by the mother's anesthesia.

Recovery from a Cesarean Section

Mothers find that c section recovery is longer than the recovery associated with a vaginal birth. Typically, women stay longer in the hospital following a c section, and the full recovery takes four to six weeks. Most doctors advise avoiding strenuous activity (for example, running, climbing stairs, lifting over ten pounds) for the first two weeks following the procedure.

Even after full healing from a cesarean section procedure, there is often a weak spot in the uterus that has a chance of causing complications in later pregnancies and deliveries. For this reason, many doctors recommend repeat c sections. In recent years, however, a greater number of doctors have become accepting of mothers who desire a vaginal birth after cesarean (vbac for short).

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