The Risks of a Cesarean

According to americanpregnancy.org, a cesarean birth occurs through an incision in the abdominal wall and uterus rather than through the vagina. According to the CDC, as of 2013, the cesarean birth rate in the United States was 32.7%. In 2005 it was reported as “the highest ever” according to the CDC with a rate of 29.1% in the United States. That’s quite an increase between 2005 and 2013.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks. Make sure you are aware and understand all the risks involved before having a cesarean section. Having a good understanding of this procedure’s risks beforehand can help you get the most from your talk with your care provider. I am going to list some of the risks and complications for the mother and the baby.

There are several risks to take into account for the mother. Please remember, however, most of the following risks are associated with any abdominal surgery.

  • Infection can occur at the incision site, in the uterus and in other pelvic organs such as the bladder.
  • You are at risk for additional surgeries such as a possible hysterectomy , bladder repair or another cesarean.
  • Possible injury to organs such as the bowel or bladder is possible.
  • Scar tissue, or adhesions, could form inside the pelvic region causing a blockage and pain. They can also lead to future complications in pregnancy such as placenta previa or placental abruption, although not incredibly common.
  • There is more blood loss in a cesarean birth than with a vaginal one. This can cause anemia or the need for a blood transfusion. 1 in 6 women out of 100 will require a blood transfusion.
  • The maternal mortality rate is higher than that of a vaginal birth.
  • There can be a negative reaction to medications or the anesthesia.
  • Many women who have had a cesarean say that they felt negatively about their birth experience.
  • It can take weeks to months to recover from a cesarean
  • After a normal cesarean, the stay in the hospital is at least 48 hours

Now, factor in the risks and complications for the baby.

  • Very rarely, the baby may be nicked or cut during the incision. 1 or 2 babies per 100 will be cut during the surgery.
  • A baby is more likely to have breathing problems when delivered by a cesarean section.
  • If the gestational age was not calculated correctly, the baby could be delivered prematurely.
  • Low APGAR scores can be the result of anesthesia or fetal distress.

If you are in a non-emergency situation and your care provider recommends a cesarean, take the time to discuss your options regarding the procedure.

  • Have your care provider provide a comparison of all the possible risks and complications for you and your baby for a cesarean versus a vaginal birth.
  • Ask if there are any alternatives for your particular situation.
  • Get information about their standard procedure such as when you can hold your baby, etc.
  • Find out why a cesarean was recommended in your situation.

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