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(continued)

What are the risks of C-section?

Most mothers and babies do well after C-section. But it is major surgery, so it carries more risk than a normal vaginal delivery. Some possible risks of C-section include:

  • Infection of the incision or the uterus.
  • Heavy blood loss.
  • Blood clots in the mother's legs or lungs.
  • Injury to the mother or baby.
  • Problems from the anesthesia, such as nausea, vomiting, and severe headache.
  • Breathing problems in the baby if it was delivered before its due date.

If she gets pregnant again, a woman with a C-section scar has a small risk of the scar tearing open during labor (uterine rupture). She also has a slightly higher risk of a problem with the placenta, such as placenta previa.

How is a C-section done?

Before a C-section, a needle called an IV is put in one of the mother's veins to give fluids and medicine (if needed) during the surgery. She will then get medicine (either epidural or spinal anesthesia) to numb her belly and legs. Fast-acting general anesthesia, which makes the mother sleep during the surgery, is only used in an emergency.

After the anesthesia is working, the doctor makes the incision. Usually it is made low across the belly, just above the pubic hair line. This may be called a "bikini cut." Sometimes the incision is made from the navel down to the pubic area. See a picture of C-section incisionscamera.gif. After lifting the baby out, the doctor removes the placenta and closes the incision with stitches.

How long does it take to recover from a C-section?

Most women go home 3 to 5 days after a C-section, but it may take 4 weeks or longer to fully recover. By contrast, women who deliver vaginally usually go home in a day or two and are back to their normal activities in 1 to 2 weeks.

Before you go home, a nurse will tell you how to care for the incision, what to expect during recovery, and when to call the doctor. In general, if you have a C-section:

  • You will need to take it easy while the incision heals. Avoid heavy lifting, intense exercise, and sit-ups. Ask family members or friends for help with housework, cooking, and shopping.
  • You will have pain in your lower belly and may need pain medicine for 1 to 2 weeks.
  • You can expect some vaginal bleeding for several weeks. (Use sanitary pads, not tampons.)

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 23, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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