Cesarean Birth (C-Section)

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

Preparing for the birth

The preparation for the birth is nearly the same whether scheduled or unscheduled. Surgery will begin shortly after you receive anesthesia. You will receive either regional or general anesthesia. Most cesareans are completed in less than an 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.

Making the incisions

In a cesarean birth, incisions are made in both the skin and the uterus. Either incision may be transverse (from side to side) or vertical. Your skin and uterine incisions may differ. Be sure they are noted in your health records:

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

  • The uterine incision 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. 

Types of incisions


Your baby’s birth

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.

Caring for yourself

After your baby’s birth, the uterine incision is closed with stitches. Your skin incision will be closed with stitches, surgical staples or glue and a dressing may 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. You may also receive antibiotics to reduce any risk of infection.

Caring for your baby

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 the baby’s mouth and airways. The APGAR score will be done. This rates baby’s appearance (color), pulse (heart rate), grimace (muscle reflex), activity, and respiration (breathing).There may be an opportunity for skin to skin contact or your baby may be wrapped in a blanket and brought to you. Now, for the first time, you’ll see your newborn.

Risks of cesarean

As with any surgery, cesarean birth has risks. Your healthcare provider will discuss the risks of cesarean with you. They may include:

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Injury to nearby organs

  • Blood clots in the legs, pelvis, and/or lungs

  • Reaction to anesthesia