A baby can be born in one of two ways. A vaginal birth is one in which the baby is delivered through the mother's birth canal (vagina). A cesarean birth (C-section) is one in which the baby is delivered through an incision in the mother's lower abdomen and uterus. A cesarean birth is a surgical procedure done with anesthesia. It can take 4 to 6 weeks to recover completely from the surgery. But most mothers are up and able to care for their infants in 3 to 4 days.
A C-section may be done when a quick delivery is needed for the safety of the mother or baby. Some cesareans are done after labor has slowed or stopped and a manual exam shows that the fetal head is not engaging in the pelvis. This sometimes happens when the fetal head is larger than the mother's pelvic girdle (cephalopelvic disproportion).
Some conditions or problems that may require a cesarean birth can be identified before labor begins. These conditions include the following:
Many cesarean births are done on an emergency basis when maternal or fetal problems or complications develop during labor. Such situations include:
In the past, a woman who had one cesarean birth then had to have all of her other babies delivered by cesarean also. This is no longer the case. Depending on the reason for the original cesarean and the type of incision that was made, a woman may be able to deliver her next baby vaginally. For more information, see the topic Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofJune 4, 2014
Current as of: June 4, 2014
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