Cesarean Section/C-Section/Gentle-C

C-section for riskier deliveries, health concerns

Cesarean section (commonly known as C-section) involves surgical removal of a baby by way of incisions in the mother's abdomen and uterus. A C-section may be planned due to certain health complications of the mother or baby, or it may be done in an emergency, if certain conditions apply during the mother's labor.

At Main Line Health we offer traditional cesarean delivery as well as "gentle-C," also known as family-centered cesarean. Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is also an option for some women who have previously had a C-section. Be sure to discuss your preferences and the options available to you with your own provider.

What to expect

Traditional C-section

Once you’re admitted for delivery, you’ll receive an IV to administer fluid, labs will get drawn and medication to help prevent infection. You’ll then receive regional anesthesia and an epidural block to numb pain while you stay awake. A urinary catheter is placed in the bladder after anesthesia is done so you can’t feel it.

Your provider then begins the procedure:

  • Your OB/GYN makes an incision in the abdominal wall, usually horizontally near the pubic hairline.
  • The doctor then makes a uterine incision (typically horizontally across the lower part of the uterus).
  • Your baby is then delivered through the incisions. Your provider clears the baby's mouth and nose of fluids, clamps and cuts the umbilical cord, removes the placenta from the uterus and closes the incisions.

A hospital stay after a C-section is typically two or three days. After you go home, your provider will recommend you rest whenever possible and not to lift anything heavier than your baby. It’s also important to schedule a postpartum checkup with your provider within four to six weeks after your C-section. You may have to be seen the next week if there were any complications or if your incision needs to be checked.

Gentle C-section

Women who have had C-sections sometimes talk about feeling “disconnected” from their birth experience. A new approach that first became popular in Europe is called “gentle-C” or family-centered cesarean, which produces a better surgical experience for mom and partner to bond with their new baby.

With gentle-C, a clear drape allows you to see your baby being removed from your belly. The baby is then placed skin-to-skin on you, and as you snuggle with them, the OB/GYN completes the surgery by closing the uterus and abdomen with stitches.

This early skin-to-skin contact has been shown to have many benefits to moms and babies of vaginal births, such as the mother having greater confidence in her mothering abilities and more immediate balancing of baby’s temperature and other vital signs. It’s believed that the same benefits apply to moms and their babies who’ve been delivered by C-section. During these first moments of the baby’s life, the father or partner may also hold the baby.

Remember that a gentle-C may not be an option in surgical emergencies. Be sure to talk to your doctor in advance about what’s important to you. This way our team can try our best to accommodate your wishes and needs as much as possible, regardless of your type of delivery.

Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)

Some women who have had a cesarean section for a previous birth would prefer to have a vaginal birth the next time around. In many cases, VBAC is an option, but there may be special concerns for a natural delivery.

There are some risks associated with VBAC but there is also evidence that VBAC may be less risky than a second (or third) cesarean. Be sure to discuss this with your provider to determine your options and the best choice for the health of you and your baby.

Possible risks

C-section is a major surgery, so there are risks to be aware of, including:

  • Transient tachypnea in the baby (breathing too fast for a few days following birth)
  • Surgical injury
  • Infection
  • Blood loss
  • Blood clots
  • Adverse reactions to anesthesia

As you recover after surgery, you should contact your provider immediately if:

  • Your incision is red, swollen or leaking discharge
  • You have a fever, heavy bleeding and/or worsening pain
  • Unable to have a bowel movement
  • Pain not controlled with medication


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