Cesarean Delivery Explained

July 4, 2010

The surgical delivery of a baby is called a cesarean section or a c-section. The baby is removed from the mother's womb through an incision that is cut into the abdomen and uterus. In some cases, the surgery is scheduled during the pregnancy. In this case, it is known as an elective cesarean. In other cases, the c-section is performed in response to a complication that arises during labor.

According to statistics issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 30% of all U.S. women who delivered babies in the year 2005, did so by cesarean section. This represents a steady rise in the numbers of women undergoing this type of surgery. In 1970, the number of pregnant women who had this surgery stood at 6%, while in 1980, the figure was 17%, and in 1990, 23%.

Major Surgery-Cesarean Delivery

All abdominal surgery is considered major surgery, and cesarean deliveries are no exception. Having a cesarean poses more risks than a vaginal birth. Mothers who have c-sections are more susceptible to hemorrhaging, infections, greater postpartum pain, blood clots, longer hospital stays, and much longer recovery periods. Another complication that can occur with this surgery is injury to the bowel or the bladder. While this is a rare event, it is much commoner in women who have c-sections than in women who have vaginal deliveries.

Also, it should be noted that women who plan to become pregnant again have an increased risk for all of these complications plus the complications known as placenta accreta and placenta previa, each time they have a cesarean delivery. Still, it is not always possible to prevent the need for a c-section. Sometimes, the surgery is an absolute necessity to save the life of a mother, baby or both of them at once.

Elective Cesarean

You may need an elective cesarean under these conditions:

*You've had more than one c-section, or you've had the old-fashioned classical uterine incision that is vertical.

*You've had uterine surgery such as a myomectomy to remove fibroids.

*You're carrying a multiple pregnancy.

*Your baby is exceptionally large. This is called macrosomia.

*Your baby is in the breech or transverse position.

*Your placenta partially covers the cervix (placenta previa).

*Your baby is known to have an abnormality or illness that contraindicates a vaginal birth.

*You've tested positive for HIV. Blood tests performed in your final weeks of pregnancy show you have a high viral load.

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