The Cutting Edge: A C-Section Boom

What's a Planned C-Section Like?

newborn baby wrapped in a blanket

Jason Todd

Prior to surgery your pubic hair is shaved, and once you're in the operating room, a catheter is inserted into your urethra, an intravenous medication line is inserted into your arm, and you're given a spinal block. Your obstetrician makes a 4- to 5-inch horizontal "bikini" incision just above your pubic bone. Several layers of fat and tissue are cut, and the abdominal muscles are separated. You and your husband won't have to see what's going on, since the doctor puts a screen up at your waist. Finally, the doctor opens your uterus to lift out your baby. You might feel some uncomfortable pulling and tugging sensations during the procedure, but usually there's little or no pain. Although delivery takes about 10 minutes, the subsequent suturing can take up to 30 minutes. During this time you will be able to see but not hold your newborn. "It's too risky to let a medicated mother hold a squirming infant while her internal organs are exposed," explains Dr. Bruce Flamm.

Recovering from a c-section is more difficult than recovering from a vaginal birth. Because almost twice as much blood is lost during a c-section than during a vaginal delivery, medical complications are common. Up to 30 percent of c-section moms develop postpartum infections, and they're twice as likely to be rehospitalized due to surgical tears and blood clots. A study published in the September 2006 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who opt for an elective cesarean have three times the risk of dying from complications of anesthesia, infection, and blood clots than those who choose vaginal delivery. Walking, sneezing, laughing, or simply shifting positions can be painful for weeks. And many women find that breastfeeding is especially challenging because the tender incision site makes it difficult to nurse comfortably.

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