A Cesarean delivery, or C-section, differs from natural birth in that it requires some form of surgery to deliver the infant. If there are pregnancy complications or potential safety risks from a patient giving birth, a C-section may be required. Some doctors will recommend a C-section in advance of labor; other times, complications arise during the labor process and require an unplanned C-section. In the United States, about 30% of babies are born via cesarean section.
Because they are surgical procedures, C-sections require a woman to undergo some form of anesthesia. This may include a local anesthetic, such as an epidural or spinal block. Using local anesthetics allows the woman to stay awake during birthing process. The use of general anesthesia, in which the patient is put into a sleep-like, unconscious state, is used less frequently because it tends to pose a higher safety risk.
Once the patient is anesthetized, the surgeon will make two incisions: one through the abdomen and one through the uterus. The doctor can then remove the infant from this opening in the woman’s body and cut the umbilical cord to separate the child from the mother. The doctor will then close up the incisions, and the procedure is complete.
As with any surgery, there are potential risks to having a C-section, including:
- Loss of blood and/or clotting issues
- Internal injuries
- Complications from anesthesia
Recovery from a C-section can last a few weeks.