A caesarean section (c-section) is an operation where a doctor makes a cut in your abdomen (above your bikini line) and womb and lifts your baby out through it.
What happens during the operation?
Firstly, you will usually receive a regional anaesthetic, such as an spinal or epidural anaesthesia, which numbs the lower part of your body. This means you will get to be awake throughout the operation. Sometimes emergency casareans must be done under general anaesthesia, which means you won’t be conscious during the birth.
Your tummy will be cleaned and a tube, known as a catheter, will be inserted into your bladder to collect urine. You will have intravenous (IV) lines inserted into your arm to deliver fluid and medicines.
The obstetrician will make a cut through the wall of your tummy, usually low and across near the pubic hair line. The doctor will then cut through the layers of fatty tissue and muscle, and finally cut through the uterus.
The baby is delivered through the cuts. The doctor will clear the baby’s nose and mouth of fluids and clamp the umbilical cord. If you are awake they will hold your baby up so that you can see. They will then remove the placenta and close the cuts with stitches or staples.
If you are awake, you will feel tugging and pulling but not pain, and you will also hear fluid being suctioned. A screen will be put across your chest so you cannot see what is happening.
The operation takes about 30 minutes, with the baby usually born in the first 10 minutes. If you are awake, you will be able to see your baby immediately.
When you get an epidural, you receive a local anaesthetic then a hollow needle and a small, flexible catheter are inserted near the spinal cord in your back. The needle is removed, leaving the catheter in place. Anaesthetic medicine is injected through the catheter and can be topped up later.
Similar to an epidural, a spinal block injects a single dose of anaesthetic directly into the cerebrospinal fluid around the spinal cord. You will go numb very quickly, but the amount of anaesthetic cannot be topped up.
You might be given a general anaesthetic if the regional anaesthesia doesn’t work, there isn’t time for a regional anaesthesia, the baby’s life is threatened, or you request a general anaesthesia.