What If I Need a Caesarean Section

What if I need a caesarean section?

Some women find out they need a caesarean section long before they give birth, but for others the decision might not be made until they go into labour. It's most likely that you won't need one, but if you do, don't panic. It really is a very straightforward procedure that's over within an hour. This section will tell you more about caesarean sections and how you can reduce the likelihood of needing one.

What is a caesarean section and why would I need one?

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 caesarean 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.

• Your baby is considered too big to come through the pelvis.

• You have severe high blood pressure or other illnesses such as pre-eclampsia.

• Your baby's health is threatened and they need to get your baby out quickly.

• Your baby is lying breech.

• Cord prolapse; when the umbilical cord falls forward so your baby cannot be delivered easily. 

• You have an outbreak of genital herpes, which can be passed on to your baby through a vaginal birth.

What happens during a caesarean section?

You'll begin the procedure by meeting 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 antacid 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. 

Preparing for a caesarean section

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 operation). You might also have some of your pubic hair shaved to clear the area for the incision. 

How the casesarean section is done

Once the anaesthetic takes effect, the doctor will begin the procedure which involves making an incision allowing them to reach your baby, who will be in a bag of water. The doctor will take your baby out of the bag and bring them into the world. It's over very quickly and all you should feel is a little pressure, nothing more. 

Unless you need a general anaesthetic or it's a real emergency, your husband can stay with you from start to finish. 

What happens after your baby is born?

Your baby will be taken to a "resuscitaire", which is a small, warm bed where they can be checked over by the paediatrician. Once the paediatrician is happy your baby is healthy, they'll wrap them up in a blanket and let you or your husband have a hold! All being well, and in most cases it will be, you'll be holding your baby a few moments after they are born. 

Once your placenta is delivered your surgeon will sew up your uterus and then your abdomen with a neat line of stitches. This takes about 30 minutes. You'll then be taken back to the labour ward where your doctor or nurse will help you with breast-feeding. 

Recovering from your caesarean section

In most cases you'll be up and about in 24 hours and out of hospital within five days. But it takes around 6 weeks to recover from a caesarean section, so you'll need a little extra help at home so you can rest and concentrate on your baby and your own recovery. 

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

Choosing to have a caesarean

Having a caesarean is one of your birthing options. Some mums-to-be choose it because of the pain they might experience through a natural birth. But although there's no pain during the delivery itself, it can be painful afterwards, while you recover from the operation. So if you are considering a caesarean, make sure you know all the pros and cons first to make sure it's the right option for you. Most importantly, remember that it is a major abdominal surgery procedure so it shouldn't be considered ‘easy'; in fact it has a far longer recovery time than natural childbirth.