Although a caesarean section, also called C-section, is a common procedure and is considered safe, it is not free of the risk of complications. C-sections have more risks than vaginal births and it takes longer for the mother to recover from them. There is no way to predict exactly how a woman will go through the experience of a caesarean.

What all women can expect:

  • With an intravenous (IV) in her arm and a sore tummy from surgery, you may find it uncomfortable or awkward to breast-feed your new baby. Working with a lactation consultant will help you find a breast-feeding position that works.
  • A woman who has had a C-section can expect a longer hospital stay than one who gave birth vaginally.
  • Pain and fatigue are common after a caesarean, even after returning home from the hospital. This can make it more difficult for you to look after your new baby. Caesarean moms should take it easy, rest, and get help around the house if possible.
  • Sudden movements like coughing or sneezing can hurt the tummy. This means driving a car may be out of the question until you're feeling better.
  • You should avoid any heavy lifting for a few weeks. This may make caring for a toddler at home more challenging. Support from family and friends in these first few weeks will help.
  • Often, after a woman has had one C-section, a vaginal birth will be too risky to try in later pregnancies. However, many women who have had a C-section can go on to have safe vaginal deliveries with future pregnancies.
  • There may be a permanent scar from the surgery, although it will fade.
  • If the procedure was unexpected, caesarean moms may feel disappointed or disheartened because they were unable to have the vaginal birth they had planned. These feelings are normal. But, what really matters is that you and the baby are safe and healthy.

What can also happen?

Although serious complications from caesarean sections are rare, as with any surgery, they are possible. Women who have had C-sections are more likely than other new moms to be readmitted to the hospital soon after their babies are born.

Risks to mom include:

  • blood clots
  • death, although very rare, is more likely with a C-section than a vaginal delivery
  • heavy bleeding in later pregnancies (because of placenta problems)
  • heavy bleeding, sometimes requiring a blood transfusion
  • infection, either around the incision or of internal organs
  • injury to the bladder, bowel, or other internal organs during surgery
  • reaction to medications

Risks to baby include:

  • very rarely, injury to the baby may occur during incision
  • breathing problems in the baby, which are usually temporary

A caesarean section is still the best choice if a vaginal birth poses greater risks to the mom or the baby. Their health and safety is top priority. And there are ways to reduce some of the risks associated with C-sections, such as taking daily walks to prevent blood clots. If you have questions or concerns about caesareans, speak with your doctor.

Lisa Bendall, 
in association with the MediResource Clinical Team