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Caesarean Section

There are sometimes situations where the safest option is for baby to be born by Caesarean section. This is major abdominal surgery, therefore it is only performed when there is a clinical reason to do so. This can be done as a planned operation (an elective Caesarean) or as an emergency during labour. A planned caesarean section is usually performed 1 week before the due date (39 weeks).


Because of the risks of surgery to mum and baby, Saint Mary's Hospital does not offer Caesarean section without medical reason.


If you go into labour before your planned Caesarean section date, the doctor will talk to you about having a normal delivery instead. This will depend on the reason for the Caesarean section but for some women, a vaginal delivery can be a safer option for you and your baby.

The baby is delivered through a cut across the lower part of the abdomen, just above the bikini line. In the UK most Caesarean sections are done using either a spinal or epidural anaesthetic. These involve an injection into the back so that you are numb. This is much safer than a general anaesthetic and because you remain awake, your birth partner can stay with you and you can be awake to see your baby. It takes around 5-10 minutes to deliver the baby, and the whole operation takes around 45-60 minutes.  The Caesarean section will be arranged by a doctor in the antenatal clinic who will explain the possible complications and ask you to sign a consent form.

Click here to find out more about what happens.

After the Caesarean section, you will feel uncomfortable as the cut in your tummy will be sore. You should take regular pain relief to keep on top of the pain. You will have a catheter, which is a tube into the bladder to drain the urine, for up to 24 hours, although in most women, we aim to take this out around 6 hours after the operation. You will also need to take an injection every day, called Heparin (either Fragmin or Tinzaparin), to thin the blood and prevent blood clots for at least 7 days. You will need to learn to give yourself this injection.

You should aim to be mobile as soon as possible after your Caesarean section as this is important in reducing the risk of blood clots and improving your recovery. Most women undergoing Caesarean section will be looked after as part of our enhanced recovery pathway. Enhanced recovery is a package of care that has been shown to improve recovery after major surgery, as it reduces some of the risks of infections and blood clots.