The pros and cons of a caesarean section

A caesarean section is a surgical procedure used when a vaginal birth isn't or is no longer an option. It is major abdominal surgery where an incision is made in your stomach and uterus to deliver your baby and placenta.

During this procedure you will usually be awake and you will be anesthetized with an epidural or spinal block for pain relief.

Caesarean sections are done in an operating theatre. They can be planned ahead during pregnancy, or they can be an emergency caesarean after a vaginal birth cannot progress.

Some reasons for having a planned caesarean section include:

  • You have placenta previa which occurs when your placenta is low lying and blocking your cervix.
  • If your baby is sick and needs to be born urgently.
  • If you are having twins or multiples.
  • You have a medical condition that prevents you from having a vaginal delivery.

Some reasons for an emergency or unplanned caesarean section include:

  • If your baby is in an unfavourable position for a vaginal birth such as breech.
  • If your labour fails to progress.
  • If your baby is experiencing fetal distress.
  • A prolapsed umbilical cord where the cord comes out before your baby.
  • If your placenta starts to separate from your uterine wall.
  • Maternal conditions such as preeclampsia or hypertension.

A caesarean section is major abdominal surgery and it has a higher risk than having a vaginal birth. The risks include:

  • A greater risk of infection
  • A greater risk of excessive bleeding and blood clots.
  • The possibility of an allergic reaction to medications.
  • Recovery is longer and more painful.
  • No heavy lifting, exercise or driving is recommended for six to eight weeks after a caesarean.
  • You are separated from your baby after he or she is born which can interfere with bonding and breastfeeding.
  • You may feel grief and a sense of failure around not birthing vaginally.

VBAC

A VBAC is a vaginal birth after a caesarean section. This type of birth is not usually encouraged by obstetricians however, many women do successfully have a vaginal birth after a caesarean section.

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