What to Know about C-Sections

What to Know about C-Sections

June 3, 2019

What to Know about C-Sections

What to Know about C-Sections
Photo by @jasminavunic
What to Know about C-Sections

About a third of all births in the United States are cesarean deliveries—also known as c-sections—making it the most common surgery in the country.

During a c-section, a surgical team delivers the baby through the uterus and abdomen. (You may have heard the phrase, “Out the window instead of the door.”) Many of these deliveries are scheduled in advance for medical reasons, like the position of the baby or a condition that might make labor and delivery dangerous. Many other c-sections are unplanned and occur after your labor has started.

Here’s what you need to know about c-section deliveries.

What to Know About Scheduled C-Sections

If you have a scheduled c-section, you’ll be able to discuss your options with your doctor and medical team in advance. Though traditionally a c-section surgery is performed with a curtain separating you from seeing the procedure, many hospitals now offer what’s known as a “gentle cesarean,” where the curtain is lowered during birth, or a mirror is held up so you can see your baby being born. Some hospitals also allow you to bring in music to play during your scheduled c-section. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make requests if there’s a part of the procedure you’re concerned about.

For planned cesareans, it’s usually advised not to eat or drink for six to eight hours before surgery.

What to Know About Unplanned C-Sections

Many c-sections occur after labor has started, due to unforeseen complications like an infection or concern for the baby or mother. If you end up having an unplanned c-section, a surgeon will come in to discuss the procedure with you and help you prepare. You might have an hour or two before the surgery, or it might happen more quickly.

C-Section Preparation

To prepare you for a c-section, a nurse will first give you an IV to provide fluid and medication, and possibly shave the area where the surgeon will make either a vertical or transverse incision, right above your pubic hair line (take a look at these illustrated examples of the two types of incisions). A catheter will likely be placed in your bladder to collect urine. You will then be given anesthesia, most commonly in the form of an epidural or a spinal block.

If you’re in labor and have already had an epidural, the surgeon will check and make sure it’s working properly. In an emergency, a surgeon might recommend general anesthesia, but most of the time local anesthesia (where you’re awake and have the use of your upper body) is enough.

Who’s in the Room During a C-Section?

You will most likely be alone with the medical team—which includes an anesthesiologist, your OB, attending physicians and possibly residents—while you’re prepped for surgery, but after that a partner can join you for the c-section and birth of your baby.

You will be laying down flat, and your partner or support person will stand or sit next to your head and upper body. They can see what’s happening during surgery, and will probably be able to cut the umbilical cord and hold the baby immediately after delivery if you’d like.

What Happens During a C-Section Delivery

You might feel some pressure and tugging as the surgeon makes an incision in your abdomen and uterus and delivers your baby. Depending on the hospital where you deliver, you may or may not be able to see your baby being delivered, but as soon as delivery is over—and assuming you and baby are doing OK—the doctor will hand the baby to you or your partner.

According to the ACOG, if you’ve had an epidural and feel comfortable moving your upper body, you will most likely be able to hold your baby right away. In some cases, you’ll need to wait for the anesthesia to wear off first.

If you plan to breastfeed, let your medical team know—you should be able to start this right away, as well, if you haven’t had general anesthesia.

We hope this helps you feel more prepared and knowledgeable about c-sections.


Kelsey Wallace is a writer, producer and editor for television and publications including Oregon Public Broadcasting and Bitch magazine. She lives in Portland with her toddler and husband.

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