When you’re pregnant, it’s impossible not to think about the day you’ll give birth. That’s for good reason: While childbirth is one of life’s most joyful experiences, it’s also tough on you—physically and emotionally.
It can get even more complicated if you find out you’re likely to have a cesarean delivery. While C-sections are considered safe, the realization that you won’t be having your baby vaginally—the way you probably thought you would—can be nerve-racking.
But it might help to know that C-sections are common—about 30% of the babies born in America are delivered by C-section—and there’s a variety of reasons that having a cesarean section might be better for you and your new baby.
C-sections are sometimes planned beforehand, but frequently the decision about the procedure occurs during labor when a woman’s cervix isn’t opening enough for a vaginal birth, even with the help of contractions.
Other reasons doctors recommend C-sections include:
- Your baby is in distress. If there are concerns your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen or changes to his or her heartbeat, your doctor might suggest a C-section.
- Birth defects. If your baby has been diagnosed with birth defects, including heart disease, a C-section might be recommended.
- You have a health concern. There are a variety of health problems, including brain or heart issues, that could cause your doctor to recommend a C-section. Your doctor might also suggest a cesarean section if you have an active herpes infection or HIV at the time of giving birth.
- You’ve had a previous C-section. It’s possible to deliver vaginally after you’ve had one C-section, but in some cases your doctor might recommend C-sections for your other deliveries.
- Your baby (or babies) is in an abnormal position. If your baby is positioned sideways or if the feet or bottom are entering the birth canal first, rather than the baby’s head, a C-section might be the best option.
- You’re having two or more babies. Your doctor might recommend a C-section if you’re carrying multiples and especially if one of them is in an abnormal position.
- There’s a problem with the placenta. If the placenta is covering the opening of your cervix, your doctor is likely to recommend a C-section.
- Prolapsed umbilical cord. A C-section might be recommended if a loop of the umbilical cord slips through your cervix, ahead of your baby.
- You have an obstruction. If something is obstructing the birth canal, your pelvis is too small to deliver vaginally, or your baby has an unusually large head, a C-section might be recommended.
Sometimes, a woman requests a C-section because she prefers not to have a vaginal birth or wants the convenience of knowing when she’ll deliver. A small number of the births in the United States—about 2.5%— are the result of a cesarean by the request of the mother.
What happens during and after a C-section?
If you’re nervous about the possibility of a cesarean delivery, learning the basics of the procedure might help calm your nerves.
A C-section is a surgical procedure that delivers your baby through incisions in your abdomen and uterus. Because expectant mothers usually want to participate in their baby’s birth, most C-sections are done under regional anesthesia, which won’t put you to sleep but will numb you below the waist. A screen or drape will be placed around your abdomen, so you won’t see the surgical incisions being made. But once your baby is born, you’ll most likely be able to immediately see, hear, and touch him or her.
Following your C-section, expect to stay in the hospital for several days. Your care team will probably encourage you to get up and walk, and even shower, as soon as possible because physical activity is likely to speed your recovery. It’s common for it to take about six weeks for a full recovery, but patients are often able to care for their new baby and return to regular activities well before then.
Something else you might want to know is Hancock Regional Hospital has a partnership with Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. The partnership provides an advanced level of newborn care at the hospital and allows Hancock Regional to offer a higher level of care for at-risk infants, including babies born as early as 32 weeks’ gestation. Most babies born at Hancock Regional won’t need that level of care, but it’s good to know it’s available onsite if it’s required. If you have more questions about C-section deliveries, you can visit our surgical website HancockSurgery.com, where our surgeons, including our obstetricians, answer common questions about all the surgeries we perform at Hancock Regional. It’s another way we’re making health possible across East Central Indiana and beyond.