What if I need a C-section?

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What if I need a caesarean section?

Some women may find out they need a caesarean section (or c-section) long before they give birth, but for others the decision might not be made until they go into labour. Here you'll find out about caesarean sections and why you might need one. If you have any questions, simply speak to your midwife or get in touch with our Careline team.

Why might I need a caesarean section?

When doctors feel that a normal delivery will put you or your baby at too great a risk, they will advise you to have a c-section. These are some of the reasons why they might come to such a decision:

  • Placenta praevia; when the placenta is low in your uterus or blocks your baby's exit
  • You are carrying three or more babies, or if you are having twins and the first baby isn't in a head down position
  • Your baby is considered too big to come through the pelvis
  • You have other pregnancy conditions such as pre-clampsia that mean a c-section is safer
  • Your babys health is threatened and they need to get your baby out quickly
  • Your baby is lying breech, or lying in another way that could prevent a normal birth
  • Cord prolapse: when the umbilical cord falls forwards so your baby cannot be delivered easily
  • You have an outbreak of genital herpes, which can be passed onto your baby through a vaginal birth

What happens during a caesarean section?

The procedure may vary slightly from hospital to hospital, but here is a general guide to what will happen.

  • You'll meet your anaesthetist, who'll chat with you about your medical history and answer any questions you might have
  • They'll take some blood and ask you to sign a consent form
  • You'll be given an anti-acid to neutralise the acid in your stomach, and an intravenous drip will be set up in your arm so that doctors can keep an eye on your fluid levels and give you extra pain relief if you need it
  • In most cases, your anaesthetist will then give you a local anaesthetic (an epidural or spinal block) and you'll have a catheter to empty your bladder (which will stay in place until around 12-24 hours after the op if all goes well)
  • You will also have some of your pubic hair shaved to clear the area for the incision
  • Once the anaesthetic takes effect the doctor will begin the procedure, which involves making an incision to allow them to reach your baby, who will be in a bag of water
  • The doctor will break the membrane and bring your baby into the world
  • It's over very quickly and shouldn't be painful - all you should actually feel are their touches and a varied amount of pressure
  • Unless you need a general anaesthetic or it's an emergency, your birth partner can stay with you from start to finish
  • Your new baby will be taken to a "resuscitaire", which is a small, warm bed where they can be checked over by the paediatrician or midwife
  • Once the paediatrician is happy your baby is healthy, they'll let you or your partner have a cuddle
  • Once your placenta is delivered your surgeon will secure your uterus and your abdomen with a neat line of stitches. This may take around 30 minutes
  • You'll then be taken to a recovery unit or labour ward, depending on your hospital's policy, where your midwife will help you to breastfeed your baby if you wish to do so

C section recovery

In most cases you'll be up and about in 24 hours and out of hospital within a few days. You'll be given pain relief to help you get up and about however it will take a little while before you can resume everyday activities such as driving, intercourse and exercise. It takes around 6 weeks to fully recover from a caesarean section. That means you'll need a little extra help at home so you can properly rest and concentrate on your baby and your own recovery.

The incision made to deliver your baby will usually be made just below your bikini line; it is around 10-20cm in length and should appear as a neat horizontal line. Over time this will heal into a scar, and although it will be a slightly different colour to your skin, it will probably be very faint and will often be covered by your pubic hair and underwear. Here are all the important things to know about your recovery:

  • To ensure that the wound heals properly, it is important to keep it clean. It's perfectly fine to bathe and shower, but you should also gently wash and dry the wound daily with water
  • Look out for signs of infection such as redness, swelling or any oozing from the incision site. Your midwife will go through these with you, but do let her know if you are at all concerned about how your wound is healing
  • The type of stitches you have can vary; some will need to be removed after around five days, either in the hospital or by your community midwife at home, but you will be informed if this is the case
  • Try to avoid any clothing that will rest on the wound, such as elastic from underwear or pyjamas, and keep clothing loose and comfortable if possible.

Remember, just because you've had a caesarean section this time, it doesn't mean that your next pregnancy will have the same outcome. About 70% of women who try for a normal delivery after a caesarean section succeed.

If you'd like to know more about labour and birth, why not give our experts a call on 0800 977 8880 or ask us a question online, instantly, using Live Chat Monday to Friday,8am - 8pm.


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*Comment from Careline research group.

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