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Cesarean Section

A cesarean section, or C-section, is the surgical delivery of an infant through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus. Some cesarean sections are planned when a known medical problem would make labor dangerous for the mother or baby, while others are done when a quick delivery is needed to ensure the mother's and infant's well-being.

Situations in which a cesarean section may be used include:

  • Fetal distress.
  • Stalled labor that doesn't respond to medicines or other methods.
  • Breech delivery.
  • Placenta problems.
  • A mother's HIV or active genital herpes infection.
  • Some multiple pregnancies.
  • Umbilical cord problems that reduce blood flow to the fetus.
  • Maternal illness that makes it dangerous to undergo the stress of a vaginal birth.

The incision may be made across the bottom of the abdomen above the pubic area (transverse) or, in certain cases, in a line from the navel to the pubic area (vertical). In many cases, a woman delivering by cesarean can remain awake during the childbirth and be with her newborn soon afterward.

A cesarean section is a surgical procedure, and recovery takes longer than after a vaginal delivery. A woman recovering from a cesarean delivery requires extra help during the first week or so after delivery.

Last Revised: February 23, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Deborah A. Penava, BA, MD, FRCSC, MPH - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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