Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us
Click a letter to see a list of conditions beginning with that letter.
Click 'Topic Index' to return to the index for the current topic.
Click 'Library Index' to return to the listing of all topics.

Cesarean Section (C-Section)

A cesarean section (C-section) is the surgical delivery of a baby through an incision in the mother’s belly. A C-section may be planned and scheduled. But, in many cases, a C-section is unexpected. In any case, it is done to make sure that you and your baby have the safest birth. 

Before the procedure

You will be given antibiotics before the C-section. This is to reduce any risk of infection. Most C-sections are completed in less than 1 hour. During the birth, your healthcare team is with you, ready to take care of you and your newborn. Your partner may also be with you for the birth.

During the procedure

Surgery will begin shortly after you receive anesthesia. You will receive either regional or general anesthesia. Incisions are made in both your skin and then your uterus. Your skin and uterine incisions may differ. Be sure they are noted in your health records. Here is how they may vary:

  • The skin incision. This is usually transverse (side to side). It is located at the pubic hairline. A vertical (up and down) incision may be used if you’ve had this incision before or if the C-section needs to be done quickly.

  • The uterine incision. This is almost always transverse. A transverse incision heals very well. This may allow for a future vaginal birth (VBAC). In certain cases, a vertical uterine incision may be made. 

Once the incisions are made, the healthcare provider presses on the top of the uterus and guides the baby through the incision. The cord will be clamped and cut. Then the placenta is lifted out through the incision.

Pregnant abdomen showing low transverse incision. Pregnant abdomen showing midline vertical incision.
Possible sites for a transverse skin incision or a vertical skin incision.

After the procedure

After your baby’s birth, the uterine incision is closed with stitches. Your skin incision will be closed with surgical staples or stitches and a dressing will be applied. Your healthcare provider will press on your uterus. This helps expel blood clots through the vagina. You may be given medicines to help shrink your uterus and decrease bleeding.

Your baby's care after birth

While your surgery is completed, your baby will be placed in an infant warmer. Gentle suction will be used to help remove excess fluid from your baby’s mouth and airways. Then the APGAR score will be done. This rates a baby’s appearance (skin color showing healthy blood flow), pulse (heart rate), grimace (muscle reflex), activity (muscle tone), and respiration. Your baby will be wrapped in a blanket and brought to you. Now, for the first time, you’ll see your newborn.

Risks of a C-section

As with any surgery, a C-section has risks. Your healthcare provider will discuss the risks with you. They may include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Injury to nearby organs

  • Blood clots in the legs, pelvis, or lungs

  • Reaction to anesthesia

Online Medical Reviewer: Daniel N Sacks MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2020
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.