When you’re pregnant, delivering a healthy baby is most likely your biggest concern. And perhaps your birth plan includes a vaginal delivery. However, some situations may make a cesarean section the best option.
Often, C-sections are scheduled in advance for several reasons, such as if you’re expecting multiples. But sometimes they become essential lifesaving procedures during emergencies.
Reasons for an Emergency C-section
Reasons for an Unscheduled C-section
There is a difference between an unscheduled C-section and an emergency C-section, although people often use the terms interchangeably. Unplanned cesareans are still considered urgent, but typically mother and baby aren’t in life-threatening situations. Common causes for an urgent, unplanned C-section could include:
During an emergency C-section, time is of the essence. The goal is to get your baby out as fast as possible because your life or your baby’s life could be in danger. The time from the beginning of surgery to delivery can be as short as 1 minute.
If you had an epidural while you attempted vaginal delivery, your anesthesiologist may have time to give you enough medicine through your epidural so you’ll be able to be awake during the C-section. If you didn’t have an epidural, then your doctor may have to give you general anesthesia (meaning you won’t be awake) and you’ll meet your baby when you wake up.
Nonemergency C-sections, like one being performed because labor hasn’t progressed normally, usually begin within 30 to 60 minutes of your doctor making the decision. You'll probably get to be awake for this C-section and meet your baby immediately. You’ll get a spinal anesthetic, an epidural, or a combination of the two, called a combined spinal-epidural anesthesia (CSE), so you won’t feel any pain.
Emergency cesareans carry different risks compared with scheduled cesareans, including increased chances of severe hemorrhage, complications from rapidly administered anesthesia, and accidental injury to you or your baby.