While a cesarean section may not be part of your birth plan, your doctors may recommend one for a variety of reasons. Al though the cesarean section is generally a very safe procedure, any type of surgery does carry a risk of complications. Whether you choose to have a cesarean birth or not, it’s good to know about the risks of it to avoid any issues in the future.
Pain and Recovery
The recovering process takes longer if you have a cesarean birth. And, you’ll probably feel pain in your wound for the first few days and discomfort in your tummy for at least the first week or so after the operation, while your body heals. A cesarean may affect your day-to-day activities for some time.
Surgical site infection (an infection that occurs after surgery) is one of the most common complications following the cesarean section and has an incidence of 3% to 15%. So, before you go into surgery, doctors will give you a dose of antibiotics, to reduce your risk. The three main infections are:
- Infection in the wound symptoms includes redness and discharge, worsening pain in the wound, and separation of the wound. It’s more likely to happen if you have diabetes or are overweight or obese.
- The infection of the lining of your womb is called endometritis. Symptoms include heavy bleeding, irregular bleeding, smelly discharge, or fever after birth.
- Urinary tract infection as a result of catheterization (having a thin tube inserted to empty your bladder). Symptoms include pain low down in your tummy or groin, a high temperature, and confusion.
Any surgery can raise your chance of developing a blood clot and this can be serious, depending on where the clot lodges. If the clot lodges in your lungs and it can be life-threatening. Signs include cough or shortness of breath or pain and swelling in your calf. Call your doctor if you notice any of these signs after your cesarean. Moving around after having a baby is key to prevent blood clots. So, doctors will encourage you to do it as soon as possible after your cesarean. Doing this might make you feel uncomfortable at first but it will reduce the risk of a clot forming.
A cesarean carries a risk of adhesions as you heal. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that can make organs in your tummy stick to each other, or to the inside wall of your tummy. It’s difficult to say exactly how many women are affected by adhesions after a c-section, as they often don’t cause any symptoms. However, only around 1 in 4 women who have had a cesarean likely have adhesions. However, the rate of adhesions increases the more cesareans that you have. Adhesions can be painful because they limit the movement of your internal organs. Although it’s not common, they can sometimes lead to problems with bowel obstruction and fertility if they press on or block neighboring organs.
Effects of Anesthetic
Most cesareans are carried out with an epidural or a spinal to numb your tummy, as it’s safer than having a general anesthetic. But having any anesthetic involves a small risk. After an epidural or spinal, you may have:
- A severe headache. This affects between one in 100 and one in 500 women and is more likely if you’ve had more than one type of regional anesthetic leading up to the birth.
- Nerve damage. Though this rarely happens, and usually only lasts for a few days or weeks. Permanent nerve damage is very rare.
Cesarean or Vaginal Birth
If there are no complications with your pregnancy or labor, vaginal birth is safer than cesarean birth. And, it is also better for your future fertility. All operations carry some risk and c-section is no exception. Plus, a cesarean involves major surgery in your tummy and pelvic area. However, serious complications are rare for the first c-section, particularly if it’s planned and you don’t have any medical problems. Sometimes, cesarean birth is needed to save the life of a mum or baby, in which case it is without question the safest option. If your labor has been induced and is still not progressing, you may also need to consider a cesarean.
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