C-Section Delivery – What Are the Benefits and Risks?
C-section delivery is a surgical process where the doctor makes an incision in the wall of the mother’s abdomen and in her uterus to deliver the baby. Most c-section deliveries are conducted when there are problems in the progress of labour. A c-section delivery can be a lifesaver in cases where there is a risk of complications in a vaginal birth.
Is It Safe to Have Caesarean Birth?
In the olden days, it was believed that c-section deliveries pose more risks than vaginal births, but with the progress in the field of surgery, the process is now something which should not cause any apprehension. Although vaginal birth should be your first preference if there are no issues with your pregnancy or labour, a c-section is perfectly safe too.
A c-section birth is a necessity in cases where there is a danger to the mother’s or the baby’s life. In such cases, it is a better option than vaginal birth for both the mother and the child. Also, c-section is the only option in cases where labour is induced but is not progressing, if the mother is carrying multiple babies, or if the baby is large.
While all operations have some risks involved, it is rare to have any serious complications in case of a first-time cesarean, especially if the operation is planned and the mother is healthy.
Advantages of C-Section
C-section may be the best option for you and your baby if your doctor has advised you to opt for it. Delivering through c-section has a few benefits over delivering naturally. The benefits of c-section over natural birth are:
- Planned Delivery
If you have a planned C-section delivery, it will let you anticipate and arrange yours and the baby’s needs in advance.
- No Fear of Tearing
C-section delivery may save you the worry about the tearing of the area between the back passage, perineum and the vagina. However, labour pains exist during c-sections too and they are as intense as vaginal birth labour pains.
- Less Discomfort
C-section delivery comes with its fair share of discomfort, but you are saved from the pain and bruises that occur between the perineum and the vagina in the case of a normal delivery.
- Less Bleeding
Bleeding is comparatively less in the first few days after a C-section delivery.
- Less Complaint of Leaking Wee
Women who deliver through C-section, complain less of leaking wee when they cough or laugh.
- Fewer Sexual Problems
Women who have a C-section tend to have less sexual problems because there are no cuts and stitches in the perineum and the vagina.
- Fewer Chances Of Pelvic Floor Damage
C-section does not lead to pelvic floor damage, which may take place in the case of a vaginal delivery.
- Fewer Chances Of Birth Trauma
The use of forceps is minimal in a C-section delivery, and thus, the chances of the baby suffering from birth trauma are also less.
- Infections Are Not Transmitted
If the mother has diseases like HIV or if viral load is detected during pregnancy, c-section decreases the risk of the infection passing over from the mother to the baby.
Disadvantages of C-Section Delivery
It is also important to know the risks that a c-section delivery may pose for both the mother and the baby.
Disadvantages of C-Section for the Mother
C-section risks for a mother include the following:
C-section mothers need a lot of pain relief medication and may take longer to recover than mothers who deliver through vaginal birth. After a c-section delivery, it is common for women to complain of pain in the wound (where the stitches are) and abdominal discomfort. Abdominal discomfort may sometimes last for more than a month.
During a c-section surgery, the mother may lose a lot of blood if the bleeding is more than normal. If there is heavy bleeding, there may also be a need for blood transfusion.
- Infections After Surgery
Before going for a C-section operation, the mother is given antibiotics to lessen the chances of infections. However, infections may still occur and are a very common side-effect of c-section delivery. The woman may find discharge and redness in the wound, and feel a lot of pain or notice the separation of the wound. This tends to happen more for women who are overweight or are diabetic. Endometritis is an infection in the lining of the uterus, and this leads to heavy and irregular bleeding or smelly discharge, and sometimes causes fever after birth. Women may also develop a urinary infection caused by the catheter. The symptoms to look out for are a pain in the lower part of the tummy or the groin, high temperature and chills.
- Blood Clots
Every surgery carries the risk of a blood clot. This can be fatal if the clot is in the lungs. If you notice shortness of breath, swelling and pain in the calf muscles or a cough, you need to seek immediate medical help. You will be asked to move around and take blood-thinning drugs to reduce the risk of a blood clot.
Though not very common, adhesions are a risk of C-sections. These are bands of scar tissues that make the organs stick to each other in the stomach or to the wall inside the stomach, and can be very painful. They may also be the cause of some bowel problems and, in some cases, can cause fertility issues.
Anaesthesia administered during the operation can cause a severe headache, and in some cases also causes temporary nerve damage.
- Subsequent Pregnancies
If you are pregnant after c-section, risks of another c-section are higher. In most cases, if a woman’s first delivery is through caesarean surgery, subsequent deliveries also happen through c-section.
The mortality rate of a mother is higher in the case of a c-section.
Disadvantages of C-Section for the Baby
There are a number of c-section risks to the baby. Some of them are:
- Breathing Problems
Some babies delivered through c-section may have breathing problems. The problem may not be serious, but the baby would need special care. It is more likely for babies that are born preterm or for babies who are born through a caesarean section before labour starts.
In rare cases, the baby may get hurt by the doctor’s scalpel, though this usually heals.
- Neonatal Care
The need to stay in neonatal care is higher among babies born through c-section than babies born vaginally.
C-section risks for babies include a higher chance of asthma.
The risk of stillbirth and infant mortality is higher in babies born through caesarean.
Other Complications of C-Section
A c-section delivery can cause a few other complications as well. These include:
- The mother may need to be admitted to the intensive care unit for observation.
- There have been very rare cases where a hysterectomy had to be performed to safeguard the mother’s health.
- Due to complications after c-section, there may be a need for further surgery after the operation.
- In rare cases, the woman may sustain an injury in her bladder or her uterus.
- Women who have had a c-section usually end up staying in the hospital longer.
- There may be physical problems like soreness and pain in the incision area.
- Breastfeeding may be delayed for women who have had a caesarean. This is because of the discomfort and pain in the abdomen.
- Postpartum depression is higher among women who deliver through caesarean.
Possible Effects of Caesarean Birth on Your Future
A C-section birth may affect future pregnancies in the following ways:
- There might be complications like bleeding, abnormal foetal position, placenta previa or rupturing of the uterus along the previous scar in future pregnancies if the earlier pregnancy was a c-section delivery. Placenta previa leads to excess bleeding. Abnormal foetal position can make labour hard for a mother who is attempting to deliver normally after a c-section delivery. If the uterus ruptures, it may prove to be fatal.
- Urinary tract infections and infections in the bladder are more common among mothers who have delivered through C-section previously.
- Sexual dissatisfaction: The time to heal after a c-section can be long which can reduce a woman’s interest in sexual activity. She may also have pain or tenderness at the incision site.
- A woman who has had one c-section is more likely to have a caesarean delivery in all her future pregnancies.
- The risk of having a low-lying placenta increases in future pregnancies and the complication leads to excess blood loss and a need for blood transfusion in the next pregnancy.
- The chances of stillbirth increase in future pregnancies.
While the chances of c-section deliveries in future pregnancies increase, it is by no mean the only option available to an expectant mother. VBAC or vaginal birth after caesarean is possible for women who have no complications in their second delivery. A woman who had a caesarean delivery because the baby was in a breech position is more likely to have a VBAC than someone who could not deliver normally and had to opt for a c-section even after she was completely dilated and had started pushing. If you want to weigh your options after the first c-section, consult a doctor, and make a list of hospitals that support VBAC.
An unplanned c-section delivery can be a lifesaver for both mother and child. While vaginal delivery is what most mothers hope for, it is important to understand that a c-section delivery is safe too.