Cesarean Birth: What to Expect

Upon arrival in the triage room or delivery room, the anesthesiologist will start an IV by inserting a small needle into an arm or hand vein. The IV is kept in place to give medication, if you need it, and to replace your body fluids.

An important decision concerns the type of anesthesia -- general or regional. Discuss the benefits and risks of each with your physician. The doctor usually considers the mother's preference, unless the reason for the cesarean is fetal distress. In that case, the obstetrical team must use whatever type is quickly available. During administration of the anesthesia, it may help to use your relaxation techniques.

Now the staff cleanses your abdomen with an antiseptic. With regional anesthesia, although you won't feel pain, you'll feel the coldness of the solution, as well as pushing, pulling and pressing. These sensations will last only a short time.

Most likely, an anesthesia screen will be used to prevent you from watching the surgery. The staff may put an oxygen mask over your mouth and nose to increase the amount of oxygen available to the baby.

There are two types of skin incisions that the physician can use: transverse or vertical. The bikini incision has cosmetic advantages and offers greater comfort than the midline.

When your uterus becomes visible, the surgeon will make a three-to-four-inch-long incision and bring the baby through your abdominal wall. You may hear your baby's first cry. The cord will be clamped and cut. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes for a cesarean birth.

While the staff checks your baby's general condition, your placenta is delivered. The surgeon then closes each layer of skin by using clamps, staples or sutures in a procedure that usually takes about 45 minutes.

You will be given pain medication after the cesarean is over. It usually provides significant relief within 30 minutes and makes you feel comfortable enough to move about, breastfeed and bond with your baby.

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