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What is a cesarean section?

A cesarean section, or C-section, is the delivery of a baby through an incision in the lower abdomen and uterus. The uterus is a pear-shaped organ located in the lower abdominal (pelvic) area where a baby grows during pregnancy. 

Cesarean section is a major surgery that can sometimes be safer than vaginal delivery for the mother, the baby, or both. Doctors sometimes decide during pregnancy that a cesarean section will be needed and schedule it ahead of time. In other cases, doctors decide during labor that a cesarean section is the best way to deliver a baby.

A cesarean section is a major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive delivery options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your delivery choices if there is time before having a scheduled cesarean section. 

Types of cesarean section

The types of cesarean section procedures vary according to the types of incisions made:

  • Horizontal (transverse) cesarean incisions extend low across the pubic hairline. This is the most common type of cesarean section because it heals better with less bleeding. It also increases the chance of having a successful vaginal delivery with any future pregnancies.
  • Vertical (longitudinal) cesarean incisions extend from the belly button or naval down to the pubic hairline.

Other procedures that may be performed

Doctors sometimes perform a tubal ligation with a cesarean section. This is an option for a woman who knows that she will not have more children. 

Tubal ligation is the surgical closing of a woman’s fallopian tubes. This procedure is a form of birth control, commonly known as “tying the tubes.” A woman who has had a tubal ligation can no longer become pregnant.

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 11, 2013

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View Sources

Medical References

Cesarean Birth. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq006.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130423T1303445571. Accessed April 23, 2013.
Cesarean Delivery. BetterMedicine. http://www.bettermedicine.com/article/cesarean-delivery. Accessed April 23, 2013.
Delivery by Cesarean Section. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/delivery-beyond/pages/Delivery-by-Cesarean-Section.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token. Accessed April 23, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed April 23, 2013.

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