A cesarean section, or c-section, is a major operation. During the cesarean section, the doctor makes incisions (cuts) through the abdomen and uterus in order to deliver the baby. The decision to have a cesarean section can be made before or during labor. For example, a c-section may be planned before labor begins if the doctor can tell that the baby's position or size may make it difficult or impossible to move out of the uterus and birth canal. Other times, the mother may have a medical condition, such as high blood pressure, that would make a c-section safer than a vaginal delivery.
After labor starts, a cesarean section may be necessary due to any of the following problems:
- The cervix fails to dilate during labor
- The baby shows signs of trouble (see Fetal Distress)
- Heavy bleeding occurs.
The majority of the time, assisted delivery methods are used to decrease possible harm to the mother and child when problems arise. However, as with any medical procedure, assisted delivery procedures do have risks.
A c-section is a major operation, which carries the risk of:
- Bleeding problems
- Blood clots
- Nerve damage
- An allergic reaction to the anesthesia
- A possible hysterectomy
- Loss of life of the patient.
Forceps or Vacuum Delivery
Forceps delivery and vacuum delivery have their own risks that differ from the risks of a cesarean section. In rare cases, these types of assisted delivery can cause loss of bladder and/or bowel control. You may have significant bleeding from cuts in the cervix or vagina, and they may become infected. It is not uncommon for the baby to get bruises on its face and head during a forceps delivery or vacuum delivery. These bruises usually disappear after a few days.
All of these changes to a normal delivery increase the risk of damage to the baby, including:
- Bone fractures
- Brain damage
- Loss of life.
However, these things happen only rarely.
When necessary, cesarean section, forceps delivery, and vacuum delivery are generally successful in decreasing the chance of harm to both mother and child.