Cesarean Section - Risks and Complications

Cesarean section is considered relatively safe. But it does pose a higher risk of some complications than does a vaginal delivery. If you have a cesarean section, expect a longer recovery time than you would have after a vaginal delivery.

After cesarean section, the most common complications for the mother are:

  • Infection.
  • Heavy blood loss.
  • A blood clot in the legs or lungs.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and severe headache after the delivery (related to anesthesia and the abdominal procedure).
  • Bowel problems, such as constipation or when the intestines stop moving waste material normally (ileus).
  • Injury to another organ (such as the bladder). This can occur during surgery.
  • Maternal death (very rare). About 2 in 100,000 cesareans result in maternal death.1

Cesarean risks for the infant include:

  • Injury during the delivery.
  • Need for special care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).3
  • Immature lungs and breathing problems, if the due date has been miscalculated or the infant is delivered before 39 weeks of gestation.3, 4

While most women recover from both cesarean and vaginal births without complications, it takes more time and special care to heal from cesarean section, which is a major surgery. Women who have a cesarean section without complications spend about 3 days in the hospital, compared with about 2 days for women who deliver vaginally. Full recovery after a cesarean delivery takes 4 to 6 weeks. Full recovery after a vaginal delivery takes about 1 to 2 weeks.

Long-term risks of cesarean section

Women who have a uterine cesarean scar have slightly higher long-term risks. These risks, which increase with each additional cesarean delivery, include:5

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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.© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

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