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What if I need a Cesarean Delivery?

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Cesarean birth is sometimes needed to ensure the health of you or your baby.

Sometimes a Cesarean section is planned in advance because of certain issues that have arisen during the pregnancy, such as:

  • breech presentation
  • placenta previa (a complication of pregnancy in which the placenta grows in the lowest part of the womb [uterus] and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix)
  • prior Cesarean sections of a special kind
  • multiple gestations
  • active herpes infection
  • an exceptionally large baby

Other times, Cesareans are not planned and the decision is made together with you during labor. For example,

  • A baby may be too large to pass through the pelvis
  • Cervical dilation or descent of the baby's head stops during labor. This may be called "cephalopelvic disproportion"
  • At other times, babies do not tolerate labor or show concerning changes in their fetal heart rate. In these cases, a Cesarean may be necessary.

Cesarean birth is a major surgery and requires anesthesia. Once you and your physician have decided that a Cesarean is necessary, you will speak with the anesthesiologist to discuss your options. Depending on how quickly the Cesarean has to be performed; you will be given either a spinal, an epidural or general anesthesia. You may feel some pressure during the surgery but you should not feel pain. Your support person should be able to stay with you in the operating room if you have a spinal or epidural anesthesia. If you need general anesthesia, then your support person will have to wait in the recovery room.

Infection is a possibility anytime a person has surgery. There are several important steps that we take together with you in order to prevent infection that may follow a Cesarean. First, please do not remove hair from the area around your planned incision (this includes your groin and stomach area) for about a week prior to surgery. Second, you will also be given instructions to use a special anti-bacterial soap to shower with the night before and morning of planned surgery. This should be used only on your body, not your scalp or face. Lastly, we give all women undergoing Cesarean birth antibiotics to prevent infection; it is important to let your health care providers know of any allergies to antibiotics that you have experienced in the past.

Download our full guide for more information »

Contact Information

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
East Campus
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-0475