Cesarean sections or C-sections are performed in a pregnancy in the following two situations. C-section is a medical necessity, for example, when there are risks in the pregnancy to the baby such as the size of the baby’s head being disproportionate to the outlet of the pelvis or risks to the mother as in the case of Placentia praevia. C-section is the choice of delivery procedure for her pregnancy by a woman during the course of her pregnancy.
Although a C-section is a relatively safe surgical procedure conducted towards the end of a woman’s pregnancy, it has a higher rate of risks, a longer recovery time, and the need for more aftercare than a normal vaginal delivery. The most common risks and complications caused by a C-section are:
• Infection at the external site of the incision scar or internally. The scar may be swollen, red, warm to the touch, and may contain pus. A foul smelling vaginal discharge can also indicate internal infection. This can delay recovery and increase the resources required for aftercare of the pregnancy.
• There may be heavy blood loss during surgery or post-surgery bleeding of the incision scar. A bleeding scar can increase risks to the mother’s life. Provisions for blood transfusions should be made during a C-section.
• A blood clot in the legs or lungs can stop circulation to the affected part. This can increase the risks of a heart attack as well as significantly increase the recovery period and need further aftercare.
• Side effects of anesthesia include nausea, vomiting, and severe headaches after the delivery.
• Bowel problems such as gas and constipation occur because the intestines have slowed their movement. It is important to avoid this by ensuring mobility during the recovery period. The aftercare for this problem needs to continue for a several weeks.
• A maternal death is very rare during a C-section. It can occur due to unforeseen complications. The risks of this happening are minimal.
• There are risks of injury to the infant during the C-section procedure.
• If the procedure is carried out early in the pregnancy, when the fetus has not achieved complete growth, there can be risks of breathing problems in the newborn.
• The risks of scar rupture increases if the woman goes through another pregnancy. Scar rupture can occur during the late stages either of a subsequent pregnancy or during labor.
There are also risks of a low-lying placenta or placental problems in the next pregnancy.
Since a C-section is a major surgery, it takes more time for recovery and needs specialized aftercare. The aftercare period in the hospital is longer for women who have had a C-section in comparison with women who have vaginal delivery. Hospital stay for aftercare recovery is generally longer by one to three days. Full recovery of the postpartum woman occurs in about one to two weeks in a vaginal delivery. However, the recovery period is four to six weeks for a C-section.
Specific aftercare tips for a woman in recovery after a C-section to decrease risks includes:
• Early mobilization includes getting out of bed to use the bathroom within the first 24 hours.
• Care of the catheter if it is still in place. If it has been removed, urinating can be painful and medical assistance will be required.
• Care of the incision site or scar to check for infection. This can dramatically improve recovery.
• Aftercare should include pain relief. This aspect of aftercare should be discussed in advance with the health care provider.
• Postsurgery development of intestinal gas is common. Aftercare measures to relieve this without affecting the scar must be taken.
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