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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Caesarean section

A caesarean section (C-section) is an operation to deliver your pēpi (baby) through a cut made in your tummy and womb.

A caesarean section can be a planned (elective) caesarean section or an emergency caesarean section.

A planned or elective caesarean section is when your operation is planned before you go into labour.

An emergency caesarean section is when your operation is carried out urgently without being planned in advance, usually after you've gone into labour. This can happen when your pēpi needs to be delivered immediately due to complications that happen during pregnancy or labour and the safest option is to deliver your pēpi straight away.

Anaesthetics for caesarean sections

Most caesarean sections are carried out when you're awake, using an epidural or spinal anaesthetic (also called a spinal block) that numbs you from the chest down. Sometimes you need a general anaesthetic and you'll be unconscious or asleep during your operation.

Risks of a caesarean section

A caesarean section is generally a safe procedure. But like any other operation, a caesarean section carries risks and complications. There are also risks and complications with a vaginal birth. The risks can happen to you, your pēpi and your future pregnancies.

Risks to you include:

Risks to your pēpi include:

Risks to future pregnancies include:

Future pregnancies after a caesarean section

You should wait for at least a year before getting pregnant again after a caesarean section. This allows your womb to heal.

Most women can have a vaginal birth in their next pregnancy after a caesarean section. For some women, your doctor and obstetric team may advise you to have a caesarean section in your next pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor or midwife about contraception options after a caesarean section and your plan for future pregnancies. The doctor and obstetric team who performed your caesarean section will be the best people to talk to as they understand your condition well.

Support after a caesarean section

Having a caesarean section can be stressful. It's also normal to have feelings of anxiety, failure or guilt. Talk through your feelings with your partner, whānau (family) and friends to get the support you need. You can also talk to your doctor or midwife about the plan for future pregnancies and any questions that you have about your caesarean section.

Your physical recovery after a caesarean section is usually harder than after a vaginal birth because of the cut made into your tummy and womb. Get your whānau and friends to help out with tasks around the home such as laundry and housework.

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Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Page created October 2022.

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