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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:

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

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    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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