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Is Cesarean Section Safe? 18 Questions About C-Section

Giving birth by C-section is complicated and looks really scary. Should you be worried if you have to have one? Today, we're answering 18 pressing questions about cesarean section and its impact on the female body.
A woman showing her belly after a C-section

Is giving birth by C-section easy?

A standard cesarean section lasts on average about 40 minutes. The baby is delivered within the first few minutes after the initial incision is made.

This procedure is hard for many, and not just psychologically. Blood loss is significant, and the recovery period is longer compared to natural childbirth. The administered medications and the condition of the mother or the newborn don’t always allow for attaching the baby to the breast immediately.

Because of the pain and sutures, it is hard for the new mother to take care of herself and the baby.

Many women who have gone through both a cesarean section and vaginal delivery would prefer the latter.

It is impossible to have a vaginal birth after a C-section?

Modern suture materials and a small horizontal incision in the lower uterine segment make it possible for a woman to give birth naturally after a cesarean section.

Doctors continually assess the readiness of the woman and her baby for a natural delivery.

Here are just a few of the requirements:

  • the woman has undergone just one uterine surgery
  • scar thickness prior to the delivery is at least 3.5 mm
  • indications for the first cesarean section (for example, placenta previa) are not observed in the current pregnancy

Despite thorough preparation, the risk of uterine rupture in the scar area is 1%. Among other requirements are special medical monitoring and a well-prepared operating room.

Is lochia observed after a cesarean section?

After any birth, natural or surgical, there is a wound in the uterus at the site of the placenta. Its healing period is accompanied by bloody discharge (lochia). It contains blood, plasma, mucus, and dead epithelium. Gradually, the discharge turns pale and becomes mucous.

The lochia after C-section is observed for a period of 4–8 weeks on average. Seeing a doctor is necessary if it suddenly stops or the amount increases sharply.

Do children born by C-section have poorer health and develop slower than their peers who were born vaginally?

A common indication for a cesarean section is intrauterine suffering of the fetus, which can affect its health and development.

In addition, passing through the birth canal, the baby is exposed to a set of bacteria necessary for normal intestinal flora formation.

A baby born by C-section is immediately exposed to other microorganisms, and this is not meant to be by nature. Scientists believe that this can have a negative impact on the baby’s health in the long term. However, these assumptions still lack solid evidence.

How long should you wait after a C-section before getting pregnant again?

There should be at least a 1.5 to 2-year break between a cesarean section and another pregnancy. During this time, the woman will build up her strength and the muscle layer in the area of the uterine incision will recover.

However, it is recommended that a woman not wait for too long either. Five years after the C-section there is a slight increase in the risk of such new pregnancy complications as premature birth, inappropriate fetal weight for gestational age, etc.

Is the number of C-sections a woman can have limited?

Generally, every subsequent surgery is more difficult than the previous one. However, the number of cesarean sections can’t be strictly limited.

Even a repeat procedure may prove hard for the surgeons. However, there are cases when women undergo five to six C-sections without any difficulties or complications.

Are women able to breastfeed after a cesarean section?

Breast milk is produced, thanks to the prolactin and oxytocin hormones. Placental separation triggers them, and they are released regardless of delivery type.

In the first few days after giving birth, women produce colostrum only. On average, breast milk comes in on day 3–5. It can take from 3 weeks to 3 months of regular breastfeeding to establish mature lactation, defined as the time when the required amount of rich breast milk is produced regularly.

A woman who has given birth with a C-section

Is C-section always performed under general anesthesia?

General anesthesia is resorted to if local anesthesia is contraindicated, there is no time for it, or the surgery will be complicated, for example, in the case of placenta previa. In other cases, spinal or epidural anesthesia is used.
Technically, both are performed by an injection into the spine.

With spinal anesthesia, one injection is enough. Epidural anesthesia involves inserting a catheter for a continuous supply of medication. The woman is conscious but doesn’t feel any pain from the lower back down to her lower extremities.

Do women who have given birth by C-section have no maternal instinct?

Maternal instinct doesn’t depend on the type of childbirth a woman experiences. A bond is formed due to many factors, including oxytocin.

This hormone is produced not only during labor and delivery. Daily care for the baby, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin contact help promote the production of oxytocin and allows the woman to experience the joys of motherhood.

Are postpartum complications more common in women who have given birth by C-section?

A cesarean section is a well-established operation that doesn’t present any special difficulties for surgeons. However, complications may occur afterward. 

For example, infections are actually more common within 6–8 weeks after cesarean section than after natural childbirth. Don’t worry, though. Your doctor is prepared for anything that may happen.

Are there any problems having sex after a C-section?

Sex can be uncomfortable and even painful for most women who have recently had a cesarean section. This is normal, even though it seems that enough time has passed for the abdominal and uterine stitches to heal completely.

The unpleasant sensations depend on changes in hormonal levels and the woman’s psycho-emotional state.

Does having a cesarean section lead to health problems in the future?

The percentage of cesarean sections per total number of births varies from 5% in Africa to 30% and higher in the U.S., Australia, etc. This is one of the most common surgeries in the world.

The technique is well-established, but the risks of complications for the mother and the baby during and after the surgery can’t be ruled out completely.

According to WHO recommendations, a cesarean section is performed when natural childbirth may pose a danger for the mother or the baby. The operation shouldn’t be carried out if there are no medical indications for it.

Can you eat before a C-section?

According to anesthesia guidelines, solid food is not allowed 6–8 hours before the surgery. You can drink water, tea, and juices, but no later than 2 hours before the time set for the procedure.

Having food or liquids in the stomach can cause nausea and vomiting. In case of an emergency cesarean section, when there is no chance to prepare for it, don’t worry. Tell your doctor what and when you ate and drank so that this information is taken into account.

Does a cesarean section leave a scar on the abdomen?

In 95% of the cases, a cesarean section leaves a smile-shaped scar on the lower abdomen that is hardly noticeable.
A large vertical incision is made rarely and only in case of special indications.

Unfortunately, the way the scar will look depends on the wound closure techniques (staples, sutures, skin glue) and the surgeon’s skills. Other key factors are the body’s individual characteristics, for example, a tendency to form keloids, and postoperative care.

Are cesarian sections performed at a woman’s request?

When trying to make up their minds about the type of birth they prefer, women try to learn more about what awaits them.
And the facts usually make moms-to-be choose natural birth.

Even though the total number of C-sections performed in the world is growing, only 0.3–14% of all these surgeries are performed at the woman's request.

Is poor vision an indication for a C-section?

Vaginal delivery doesn’t affect the course of myopia, hyperopia, and many other eye conditions.

Direct indications for a cesarean section are retinal ruptures or detachment, some retinopathy types, or other diseases that are likely to lead to the loss of vision during labor.

Does a planned C-section guarantee the mother’s and baby’s good health?

Statistically, a planned cesarean section is considered relatively safe. Unlike emergency surgeries where every second counts, a planned one is always well-prepared.

The doctors act calmly and consistently, which is why complications are extremely rare. However, it is simply impossible to guarantee that the mother and the baby will be totally fine.

It is difficult to get pregnant again after a C-section?

20% of women whose previous pregnancy ended in a cesarean section experience difficulty trying to get pregnant again. To conceive, you should let your body recover and wait for at least 18 months after the surgery.

It is important to avoid stress, pay attention to your menstrual cycle, live a healthy lifestyle, and keep a balanced diet.

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