Cesarean Delivery (C-Section)


Sometimes it is not possible for babies to be born through the mother's vagina. In such cases, a cesarean delivery, or c-section, may be performed. Cesarean birth is the birth of a baby through surgical incisions made in the abdomen and uterus.  There are many reasons why a cesarean birth may be used to deliver your baby.  It may be the best birth option for both you and your baby.  A cesarean delivery may be pre-planned or scheduled in advance when certain medical conditions are known. In many cases, if a problem arises, the decision is made during labor.

Possible Reasons for Cesarean Delivery:

  • Multiple Pregnancy - Women having two or more babies may need to have a cesarean delivery. Many women having twins are able to have a vaginal delivery. The likelihood of having a cesarean birth increases with the number of babies a woman is carrying.
  • Failure of Labor to Progress  - About one third of cesarean births are done because labor does not progress normally. In these cases, contractions may not open the cervix enough for the baby to move through the vagina. Sometimes, the doctor can start or speed up labor with medication if labor is moving slowly. It may take a number of hours to determine that labor is not progressing well. Because of this, doctors may watch for several hours before deciding a cesarean birth is needed.
  • A large baby
  • Breech presentation – where the baby is born buttocks or feet first
  • Maternal infections
  • Previous cesarean section - although this does not always dictate a repeat c-section

Before a cesarean delivery, a nurse will prepare you for the surgery.  An intravenous (IV) line will be put in a vein in your arm or hand to deliver needed fluids and medication during surgery.  Anesthesia will be given so that you do not feel pain during the surgery.  
The doctor will make an incision through your skin and the wall of the abdomen.  The skin incision may be horizontal or vertical, just above the pubic hairline.  The muscles in your abdomen are moved, and in most cases, do not need to be cut.  Another incision will be made in the wall of the uterus.  The baby will be delivered through the incisions.

Like any major surgery, cesarean birth involves risks. These problems occur in a small number of women and usually are easily treated.

If you are planning on breastfeeding, be sure to let your doctor and nurse know. Having a cesarean delivery does not mean you won't be able to breastfeed your baby. You should be able to begin breastfeeding immediately following delivery.

A hospital stay after a cesarean birth is usually 2–4 days. The length of your stay depends on the reason for the cesarean birth and on how long it takes for your body to recover. Your caregiver team of doctors and nurses is available to answer all questions and prepare you to return home with your new baby.