What happens during a C-section?
A C-section will be done in an operating room or a special delivery room. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor’s practices.
In most cases, you will be awake for a C-section. Only in rare cases will a mother need drugs that put you into a deep sleep (general anesthesia). Most C-sections are done with a regional anesthesia such as an epidural or spinal. With these, you will have no feeling from your waist down, but you will be awake and able to hear and see your baby as soon as he/she is born.
Generally, a C-section follows this process:
- You will be asked to undress and put on a hospital gown.
- You will be positioned on an operating or exam table.
- A urinary catheter may be put in if it was not done before coming to the operating room.
- An intravenous (IV) line will be started in your arm or hand.
- For safety reasons, straps will be placed over your legs to hold you on the table.
- Hair around the surgical site may be shaved. The skin will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
- Your abdomen (belly) will be draped with sterile material. A drape will also be placed above your chest to screen the surgical site.
- The anesthesiologist will continuously watch your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the procedure.
- Once the anesthesia has taken effect, your provider will make an incision above the pubic bone, either transverse or vertical. You may hear the sounds of an electrocautery machine that seals off bleeding.
- Your provider will make deeper incisions through the tissues and separate the muscles until the uterine wall is reached. He or she will make a final incision in the uterus. This incision is also either transverse or vertical.
- Your provider will open the amniotic sac, and deliver the baby through the opening. You may feel some pressure and/or a pulling sensation.
- He or she will cut the umbilical cord.
- You will get medicine to help the uterus contract and expel the placenta in your IV.
- Your provider will remove your placenta and examine the uterus for tears or pieces of placenta.
- He or she will use sutures to close the incision in the uterine muscle and reposition the uterus in the pelvic cavity.
- Your provider will close the muscle and tissue layers with sutures. He or she will close the skin incision with sutures or surgical staples.
- Finally, your provider will apply a sterile bandage.
What happens after a C-section?
In the hospital
In the recovery room, nurses will watch your blood pressure, breathing, pulse, bleeding, and the firmness of your uterus.
Usually, you can be with your baby while you are in the recovery area. In some cases, babies born by Cesarean will first need to be monitored in the nursery for a short time. Breastfeeding can start in the recovery area, just as with a vaginal delivery.
After an hour or 2 in the recovery area, you will be moved to your room for the rest of your hospital stay.
As the anesthesia wears off, you may get pain medicine as needed. This can be either from the nurse or through a device connected to your intravenous (IV) line called a PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) pump. In some cases, pain medicine may be given through the epidural catheter until it is removed.
You may have gas pains as the intestinal tract starts working again after surgery. You will be encouraged to get out of bed. Moving around and walking helps ease gas pains. Your doctor may also give you medicine for this. You may feel some uterine contractions called after-pains for a few days. The uterus continues to contract and get smaller over several weeks.
The urinary catheter is usually removed the day after surgery.
You may be given liquids to drink a few hours after surgery. You can gradually add more solid foods as you can handle them.
You may be given antibiotics in your IV while in the hospital and a prescription to keep taking the antibiotics at home.
You will need to wear a sanitary pad for bleeding. It is normal to have cramps and vaginal bleeding for several days after birth. You may have discharge that changes from dark red/brown to a lighter color over several weeks.
Do not douche, use tampons, or have sex until your health care provider tells you it’s OK. You may also have other limits on your activity, including no strenuous activity, driving, or heavy lifting.
Take a pain reliever as recommended by your doctor. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase bleeding. So, be sure to take only recommended medicines.
Arrange for a follow-up visit with your doctor. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks after the surgery.
Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Foul-smelling drainage from your vagina
- Fever and/or chills
- Severe abdominal (belly) pain
- Increased pain, redness, swelling, or bleeding or other drainage from the incision
- Leg pain
- Trouble breathing, chest pain, or heart palpitations
Your health care provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.