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A c-section may be planned, but often it's unexpected. Just in case that happens to you, it's good to be familiar with this surgical procedure.
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Linda Murray: A cesarean section or c-section is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through the abdomen rather than the vagina. This is the quickest way to deliver a baby when a vaginal birth isn't progressing well. But it can also be a planned procedure. A few decades ago, c-sections were rarely done, but today about 1 in 3 American babies is delivered by cesarean.
A c-section is major abdominal surgery. In most circumstances, you'll be awake throughout the procedure and will receive anesthesia, like an epidural or spinal block, to make sure you don't feel pain. In a typical c-section, your doctor will make a small, horizontal incision just above your pubic bone, cut through the underlying tissues and manually move your abdominal muscles apart. Then she'll cut through your uterus and amniotic sac and pull your baby out. Your newborn will immediately be examined while the doctor removes your placenta and begins closing you up.
Because it's major surgery, a c-section is riskier than a vaginal delivery. Women who have c-sections face a higher risk of infection, excessive bleeding, and blood clots. They also experience more severe postpartum pain and a longer hospital stay and recovery. In most cases, your partner can be with you during the surgery. A planned c-section is for women who shouldn't labor or deliver vaginally. Your doctor may tell you that you need one if you've had a previous c-section or other uterine surgery; you're carrying twins or multiples; you have placenta previa; which is when your placenta is covering your cervix; your baby is in a breech or transverse position, meaning bottom first or sideways; or your baby has a particular illness or abnormality. An unplanned c-section happens when problems arise during labor that make it risky to continue with a vaginal delivery. These problems can include your labor stalls, your baby's heart rate is showing worrisome patterns, the umbilical cord slips through your cervix, your placenta begins to separate from your uterine wall too early, you have an active outbreak of genital herpes when you go into labor, or you or your baby is in some other type of distress.
Mom 1: You know, the c-section wasn't—it wasn't horrible. I wouldn't recommend them to people, but if you have to do it, you have to do it. But luckily for me, my daughter was never in distress. Her heartbeat was always, was great. We didn't have any issues at all.
Mom 2: My response was no. I don't want to, [laughs] you know. I don't want to do the c-section. I want to have a natural or just a natural childbirth. And her response to that was that, no. I don't think it's an option. We have to do a cesarean.
Dad: We had to go into an emergency c-section right away. So they come in, they throw scrubs at me. So I can see everything happening. And, you know, c-sections can be quite astoundingly interesting, and it's quite graphic. And, you know, and my wife was looking at me like, "How's it going?" I'm like, "Oh, it's great. It's fantastic. Yeah, everything's fine." So they got my daughter out and put her on the table, and she started breathing, thankfully. And everything wound up great.