A caesarean section (C-section) is an elective or emergency operation used to help babies be born.
About 1 in 3 deliveries are completed this way.
If you know beforehand you’ll be having a caesarean section, it’s called an elective operation. Your appointment will probably be before the date your baby’s due, so you don’t go into labour.
Around 16 in 100 births are by planned caesarean.
You may need an elective caesarean section if:
If your obstetrician thinks it may be the best option for you and your baby, you can talk about it and decide together.
You may go into labour and expect to give birth vaginally, then find you need a caesarean section. This is called an emergency caesarean section, although often it isn’t as dramatic or last-minute as the name suggests.
Around 17 in 100 births are by emergency caesarean.
You may need an emergency caesarean section if:
The obstetrician will make a:
You’ll be given a regional or general anaesthetic.
You may feel some tugging when your baby’s lifted out – sometimes this is done by hand and sometimes with a pair of forceps.
Your baby will:
The placenta and membranes are delivered next then the cut in your womb and abdomen are closed with stitches.
It normally takes about 10 minutes to deliver your baby, and 30 to 40 minutes to complete the stitches.
After having a caesarean section, you’ll:
You can eat and drink as soon as you feel hungry or thirsty.
How long you’ll be in hospital after the operation varies, but for some women it’s 48 hours or less.
If you’ve had a general anaesthetic your baby’s father or your partner might be able to do skin-to-skin contact straight away until you’re awake.
Skin-to-skin contact with you can be possible in the operating theatre. However, your partner may not be allowed in the theatre if you’re having a general anaesthetic.
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3 November 2023