Articles - What Happens in a Caesarean Birth
The ins and outs of this procedure

What Happens in a Caesarean Birth


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The ins and outs of this procedure

Are you wondering what exactly happens in a caesarean birth? Here is a step-by-step guide to how this procedure usually unfolds:

  1. During a caesarean birth, the pregnant woman would be taken to theatre to be prepped. If she is choosing an elective caesarean, she can walk into theatre or if she is in labour, she is usually wheeled in on a bed

  2. If she hasn’t already had an epidural she would be given a spinal anaesthesia; she will be awake but the lower part of her body will be completely numb

  3. A catheter is inserted into her urethra to drain urine during the procedure, and an IV is started (for fluids and medications) if there isn’t one already

  4. The top section of pubic hair may be shaved. She will be given an antacid medication to drink before the surgery as a precautionary measure. The antacid neutralizes her stomach acid so it won't damage the lung tissue if vomiting occurs

  5. She may be given antibiotics through the IV to help prevent infection during or after the operation

  6. The partner will also be prepared for theatre by getting into theatre ‘scrubs’ and will come into theatre when all the preparation is done, they will be seated next the birthing woman. Theatres are very busy places, with doctors, midwives, theatre nurses and pediatricians moving about. Be prepared that this may sometimes be very overwhelming

  7. A screen will be raised above the woman’s waist so the procedure will not be visible. However, some women ask for this to be lowered at the point of delivery so they can see their baby being born. In the rare instance that a cesarean is an emergency a general anesthesia will be needed and the partner will not be allowed to stay in the operating room

  8. The operation begins with her belly being swabbed with an antiseptic, and the doctor will most likely make a small, horizontal incision in the skin above the pubic bone

  9. The surgeon will cut through the underlying tissue, slowly working their way down to the uterus. When they reach the abdominal muscles, they separate them (usually manually rather than cutting through them) and spread them apart to expose the uterus underneath.  The only sensation that the woman should feel is some movement or tugging but no pain

  10.  When the surgeon reaches the uterus, they usually make a horizontal cut in the lower section of it, then he or she will reach in for the baby 

  11. Once the cord is cut there will be a brief chance to see the baby before he or she is handed off to a paediatrician or nurse for examination. While this happens the surgeon will deliver the placenta and then begin the process of closing up the uterus

  12. Once the newborn has been examined, the pediatrician or nurse will hand him/her to the mother to hold while the stitching is done. Skin-to-skin contact in theatre is ideal but not always be possible

  13. Closing the uterus and belly will take a lot longer than opening up, usually about 30 minutes. The stitches used to close the incision in the uterus will dissolve eventually

  14. After the surgery is complete, the mother will be wheeled into recovery, where there will be close monitoring for approximately 40 mins. Usually partners go to the postnatal area with the baby while the mother recovers

  15. Partners will be given the opportunity to have skin-to-skin until the mother arrives in the postnatal ward. Then it's time for mother and baby to have their first breastfeed and lots of skin-to-skin together

  16. The hospital stay after a caesarean is typically 3-4 days.

There are also variations to this standard procedure that you may request, they are designed to make the procedure seem less clinical. Have a look at our 'Positive Caesarean' Birth Plan to learn more about these options.


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