What Are the Risks of a C-Section?

While a cesarean section may not be part of your birth plan, your doctor may recommend one for a variety of reasons. You might need to plan a C-section if you’re pregnant with two or more babies or if you have a medical condition or infection.

If you run into an emergency during labor, you may also need a C-section. Here are a few examples of when this might be the safer option:

  • Your labor isn’t progressing as it should.
  • Your baby is in a bad position or too large for a vaginal birth.
  • Your health -- or you baby's -- is at risk.

But there are still risks to both you and your baby with a C-section delivery.

Risks to You

As with any major surgery there are several risks associated with a cesarean delivery. These include blood clots, hemorrhaging, and reaction to the anesthesia. You could also have any of the following:

Having a C-section is fine if you want to breastfeed. Once you are in the recovery room, you should be able to start trying right away.

Once you’ve had a C-section, you’re more likely to experience complications with future pregnancies. If you have a vaginal delivery after a C-section, there's a chance your uterus could tear along your C-section scar line. You could have problems with your placenta in the future or develop scar tissue in your pelvic area. But it is possible to have a normal vaginal birth after a C-section.

Risks to Your Baby

There are far fewer risks to your baby during a C-section. Babies delivered by cesarean are more likely to develop breathing issues, though, especially if your C-section is performed before 39 weeks. That’s because labor helps clear your baby’s lungs of fluid.

If your C-section is performed before your labor begins, she could still have fluid in her lungs, but it usually clears on its own after a day or two.

There is also a small risk of injury -- usually just accidental nicks and scrapes -- to your baby during the procedure. But they’re rare, as is the chance that your baby will have a bad reaction to your anesthesia.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on October 16, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Cesarean Birth (C-section).”

March of Dimes: “Having a C-section.”

Mayo Clinic: Amniotic fluid embolism,” “C-section: Risks.”

Kids Health (Nemours Foundation): “Cesarean Sections: Recovery.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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