A cesarean section, or C-section, is the surgical delivery of an infant through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus. Some cesarean sections are planned when a known medical problem would make labor dangerous for the mother or baby, while others are done when a quick delivery is needed to ensure the mother's and infant's well-being.
Situations in which a cesarean section may be used include:
- Fetal distress.
- Stalled labor that doesn't respond to medicines or other methods.
- Breech delivery.
- Placenta problems.
- A mother's HIV or active genital herpes infection.
- Some multiple pregnancies.
- Umbilical cord problems that reduce blood flow to the fetus.
- Maternal illness that makes it dangerous to undergo the stress of a vaginal birth.
The incision may be made across the bottom of the abdomen above the pubic area (transverse) or, in certain cases, in a line from the navel to the pubic area (vertical). In many cases, a woman delivering by cesarean can remain awake during the childbirth and be with her newborn soon afterward.
A cesarean section is a surgical procedure, and recovery takes longer than after a vaginal delivery. A woman recovering from a cesarean delivery requires extra help during the first week or so after delivery.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Deborah A. Penava BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology