A c-section (stands for caesarean/cesarean section) is an operation to deliver a baby through a cut made in the mother’s abdomen (just above the bikini line).
Most c-sections are emergency cases and are used as a last resort if a vaginal birth is not feasible. However, c-sections are sometimes planned during an earlier stage of a pregnancy if a vaginal birth is deemed too risky; this is called an elective c-section. Though your doctor will only suggest a c-section if necessary, you can also request an elective c-section yourself if it is not for medical reasons. Whether it is to do with anxiety about giving birth or other personal reasons, your doctor will take you through the procedure and all the risks involved before you make your decision. You may also have the opportunity to discuss your worries about natural childbirth with a healthcare professional too.
Some of the reasons a mother may need to have a caesarean birth are:
- The baby is in a breech positions (feet first) and the doctor or midwife cannot turn the baby by gentle pressure applied to the belly
- The mother has a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia)
- The mother has pregnancy-related high blood pressure
- The mother has certain infections such as genital herpes or untreated HIV
- The baby needs to be delivered immediately because it is not getting enough oxygen or nutrients
- The mother has previously had a c-section
- The mother is carrying multiples (twins)
If you need to have a c-section, you will be given either a spinal or epidural anaesthetic which will numb your lower body while you can remain awake to meet your new baby, however, a screen will be placed in front of you so you do not have to watch the procedure.
A cut will be made in your tummy and uterus above your bikini line which is about 10-20cm long and your baby will be delivered within 10-15 minutes. The doctor will hand you your baby straight away so you can hold them. Meanwhile, you will be given an injection of oxytocin which will help to reduce blood loss and help the womb contract after your baby is born. Your wound will then be stitched up with either dissolvable stitches, traditional stitches or staples that would need to be removed after a few days. According to the NHS, this procedure usually takes 40-50 minutes in total.
The origin of the c-section is a bit unclear, but the procedure has been carried out for hundreds and hundreds of years, if not longer, and is mostly considered a safe procedure.