C-sections Recovery - What are the Stages?

The most common surgery done in the United States today is cesarean delivery, also called cesarean section and c-section. Once used as an emergency measure or for specific health problems, the average for cesarean deliveries is now one in three - a statistic that is worthy of concern. Most healthy women can have their babies vaginally without complications or long recovery periods. Public health experts feels that many cesarean deliveries are unnecessary and that the surgery is used as a way to avoid labor as well as for timing and convenience. The reality is that a cesarean delivery is major surgery and as such has inherent risks.

When A C-Section Is Necessary

The doctor may determine a cesarean birth is necessary if he or she thinks it is safer for the mother or the baby than a vaginal birth. Some c-sections are planned while many are emergency measures taken when unexpected situations arise during labor or delivery. An unplanned cesarean delivery may be the result of a slow and hard labor or labor that suddenly stops completely; the baby shows signs of being in distress - the heart rate either slowing or speeding up; a placental problem such as placenta previa or a problem with the cord puts the baby at risk; the baby is too big to be delivered vaginally. When a cesarean is a scheduled delivery, it may be due to the fact that the baby is not in position to be delivered at the due date; the mother has a health issue such as heart disease; immune system problems such as HIV infection or herpes infection; a multiple pregnancy; a previous c-section for a specific reason leads the doctor to believe it is the best and safest way to deliver a subsequent pregnancy to avoid the risk of the scar rupturing or tearing. It is possible for a woman who has had a c-section to delivery vaginally with the next pregnancy.

It's Major Surgery - There Are Risks

There are risks inherent in any major surgery and cesarean deliveries are no exception. If a woman has had multiple c-sections there is a small risk that the c-section scar may tear open during labor. This is called a uterine rupture and necessitates immediate surgery if a tear does happen. A woman who has had multiple c-sections also has a higher risk for placental problems, such as placenta previa. Other possible risks for c-sections include an infection at the incision site or in the uterus; heavy blood loss; blood clots in the legs or lungs of the mother; injury to mother or baby or both; respiratory problems for the baby if the birth was before the due date; maternal problems from the anesthesia, such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

How A Cesarean Delivery is Performed

Cesarean deliveries are done through an incision that goes across the abdomen above the pubic hair line (bikini incision), about six inches long and this incision goes through the skin, fat, and muscle. The next incision is through the uterus and is made wide enough for the baby to fit through. One doctor will support the baby while another one pushes on the uterus to help push the baby out. The baby's mouth and nose are suctioned and the cord is cut, then the placenta is removed and the doctor then cleans and stitches the uterus and belly. The result is two c-section scars, one on the uterus and one on the abdomen. If multiple c-sections are necessary, the doctors often go back in at the original c-section scar site, although many incisions in the same place weakens the tissues significantly. It is possible to view a c-section video to see how the surgery is done.

C-Section Recovery

C-section recovery periods vary with the health and strength of the mother. Immediately following the surgery there is the initial recovery from the anesthesia and careful monitoring to ensure the woman is coming out of the anesthesia without difficulty. Usually a hospital stay of four or five days, barring infection or other problems, is necessary and then a six week recovery period to get over the surgery. Remember, this is major surgery and the body reacts to the assault dramatically. It is necessary to get as much rest as possible and avoid lifting heavy items, bending too much, and doing too much. C-section recovery is long enough, complicating the recovery period by being too zealous isn't a good idea.

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