If you’re considering C-section, know that it is major surgery, with greater maternal mortality risk than vaginal births and the possibility of complications in future pregnancies. It even impacts your baby’s ability to breathe just after birth. If you are slated for doctor-recommended C-sections for health reasons, rest assured the choice is the right one. This is because medical condition like diabetes or complications with the placenta or the position of the baby might make a vaginal birth much riskier.Here are things you should not know about C-section side effects, risks, and more:
Calling C-sections Cesarean “births” won’t cushion the reality of what they entail. While it may seem like they are just routine alternatives to traditional vaginal births, that is not the case. In fact, they count as major abdominal surgery. Which is why you are given anesthesia – general or local – to help numb the pain as incisions are made to your abdomen. The incision is usually 10 to 20 cm long and is horizontal, just below your bikini line. For the first 12 hours after the birth, you will have a catheter fitted to help you pass urine. Your wound will have a dressing on it for at least 24 hours, sometimes more.
While the United Nations is working to reduce maternal mortality rates worldwide, a recent feature in the Time magazine highlighted how the United States, shockingly, has actually seen an increase in these numbers in recent times. From 18.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000, the number rose to 23.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014. Barring a few states like California that bucked the trend, there has been an overall increase across the country. This has, in part, been attributed to the rise in C-sections.
Maternal mortality rates are higher for a C-section than for a vaginal delivery.6 According to data from the World Health Organization, maternal mortality and morbidity from a C-section is five times that of a vaginal birth. This is because of the greater risk due to complications like sepsis and hemorrhage.
If you have a C-section, it could also increase the risk of your having certain complications in future pregnancies. These include complications like a uterine rupture, placenta previa, where your placenta covers your cervix, and placenta accreta or abnormal placental attachment.
A C-section birth means more hospital time for mum and baby. As with any major surgery, you will need to give your body time to heal and recover before you can get back to routine activities and vigorous exercise. You will also need to take care not to infect the wound. Watch out for any signs of pus or infection or unusually heavy bleeding that may be an unwanted outcome of the surgery.
In the first few days after the birth – usually 3 to 4 days – you may need to stay in the hospital under observation and with quick access to emergency care should you experience any complications. This also gives you time to start the healing, with the assistance of medical staff and nurses on hand. Painkillers will help you manage the pain and may be mild medication like paracetamol. Stronger alternatives like ibuprofen and co-codamol will be prescribed in some cases.
If you are carrying multiples, you may be more likely than other expectant moms to need a C-section delivery. The more babies you have on board, the greater the chances of a Cesarean birth.11 This is because they are more likely to be born very early, may not be able to cope with the challenges of a vaginal delivery, or could be in some form of distress that needs a quick birth and medical support thereafter.
In spite of all the possible risks, it is sometimes actually safer for you and your baby to have a C-section delivery rather than a vaginal delivery. Here are some of the instances when a C-section is the best choice:
Contrary to hearsay, women who have undergone a C-section for their previous pregnancies don’t necessarily have to one again. Of course, this also depends on what the reason was for the first C-section. If your health or medical condition was the cause, chances are you will need to have a C-section again. However, there are women who can safely have vaginal births too.
The ultimate decision on whether or not you are a candidate for this depends on, among other things:
A C-section delivery can be a very different experience for a baby, just as it is for the mother. Because of the speed with which the baby is born, without being squeezed through the narrow birth canal, breathing issues may occur right after birth. Babies born from a C-section usually require a little more help with their breathing just after delivery than babies born the traditional vaginal route. Which is why a pediatrician or specialist is usually present during a C-section birth to help with this and any other challenges arising from the procedure.
You will be given anesthesia as you undergo the procedure. Depending on the situation you could be given a choice of local or general anesthesia. In case of emergency C-sections, the latter is usually needed. Some of this does pass on to your baby, so expect him or her to be a little sleepier than other newborns. This effect may linger for six to twelve hours after the delivery. Help your child nurse as soon as you feel able, as the milk usually helps the baby wake up a little.
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