A Caesarean section, also known as C-section or a Caesarean delivery, is the surgical delivery of a baby, which is often necessary when a vaginal delivery may put the baby or mother at risk. While some Caesareans occur in critical situations, however, others are used to prevent critical situations, and some are elective.
There's a multitude of reasons why you might need or want a C-section, which is why C-sections are quite common in the United States.
While only around 2.5 percent of C-sections occur at the mother's request without addressing a medical problem, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, research suggests that this number has increased over the last decade.
That said, here are some of the instances when a C-section is an ideal choice due to medical reasons.
The United States has a 32 percent Caesarian rate that's continuously on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While 2005 data suggests that one in four babies were born via C-sections, 2015 data puts the number at one in three. That's more than double what the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. That's because C-sections can have some serious side effects on mothers, and they can often require longer recovery times than vaginal births.
In fact, the rise in C-sections is reportedly a major contributing reason behind the rise in maternal mortality. The United States saw a massive increase in maternal mortality in recent years, from 18.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 23.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, according to the United Nations. And maternal mortality rates are higher for C-sections than for vaginal deliveries, according to WHO, which reports that maternal mortality and morbidity from a C-section is five times that of a vaginal birth. This is because of the greater risk — complications like sepsis and hemorrhage are far more common with C-sections.
Though it's a rather regular procedure, a C-section is major abdominal surgery — one that requires anesthesia ( general or local) to help numb the pain of the 10-to-20-centimeter-long, horizontal incisions made to your abdomen, just below your bikini line. Alternatively, your doctor may make a vertical incision from just below the navel to just above the pubic bone. And they'll make incisions, layer by layer, through the fatty and connective tissue and separate the abdominal muscle to access your abdominal cavity.
Then, they have to make a uterine incision, which means that you'll have to have a catheter to help you pass urine for the first 12 hours after your birth.
Your baby will be delivered through the incisions and, once the doctor also removes the placenta from your uterus, they'll close the incisions with sutures. You'll have to keep a dressing on your wounds for at least 24 hours, though sometimes much more.
None of that is a walk in the park.
As with most major surgeries, there are some lingering side effects. Here are some of the possible side effects that come with C-sections.
You might be wondering, how long does it take for a cesarean to heal internally? The answer, in short, is: longer than it usually takes to heal from a vaginal birth, but up to you. Your childbirth is your journey, and every woman is different. There's no right amount of time that it takes to recover from a C-section. That said, you can likely expect to stay in the hospital for at least three to four days after your delivery (and longer if you experience any serious complications). When you return home from the hospital, you'll want to give your body about six weeks to fully heal from your C-section.
With any major surgery, you need to give your body time to heal and recover so that you can get back to your everyday routines and exercise. If you don't, your wound can become infected, and it'll take even more time to heal. This is why you need to keep a keen eye on any signs of infection like pus, a fever or unusually heavy bleeding that may occur following a surgery like a C-section.
So, how much bleeding is normal after C section? You will have some vaginal bleeding, which is called lochia, for two to six weeks after your birth. This bleeding is normal. But if you continue bleeding for much longer after about six weeks, you should absolutely consult your doctor.
Again, your C-section recovery is your journey, and there's no one right way to do it. That said, it's important to take care of yourself during this healing time.
Abstain from any physical activities that are going to put strain on your body. Your body needs to rest, and you need to give it time to heal before you dive back in. Likewise, you'll want to make sure that you're hydrating and getting enough sleep, as well as tending to your wounds and cleaning them.
Bonding with your baby releases love hormones like oxytocin, which can help to relieve depression that may occur after birth. The more time you can spend with your baby, the more your baby will feel secure and calm enough to experience optimal development, as well.
Contact your health care provider if you think your recovery is taking too long, you may have an infection or you need someone to talk to because you're worried you may be experiencing any of the aforementioned side effects like postpartum depression or PTSD.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.
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