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Caesarean birth risks

Many babies are born by caesarean birth every day in Ireland, with no complications. Like any operation there are some risks to be aware of.

Risks to you from a caesarean birth

These are some of the risks you may face:

  • scarring
  • pain afterwards
  • infection
  • bleeding
  • blood clots

Scarring

A caesarean birth means the baby is born through a cut in your tummy. It's normal to have a scar afterwards.

This is usually a horizontal scar in the bikini area, and not very noticeable. It may be more noticeable for some women, depending on the way your body forms scar tissue.

In rare cases, a baby will need be born through a vertical cut. The scar from this will be more obvious.

Pain afterwards

You may experience some discomfort for several days afterwards. Your doctors will prescribe you some pain relief to take that will help you to feel comfortable.

You may have some discomfort at the wound for several months after the caesarean birth.

Infection

Like any surgical wound, there is a risk of infection if germs contaminate the wound. Follow the advice of your midwife and obstetrician on caring for your wound. Your women's health physiotherapist will also give you advice to help protect your wound, for example during coughing and movement.

When you are caring for a newborn baby, it's easy to forget that you have had surgery. Make the time to look after yourself.

If you do develop a wound infection you may need to go on a course of antibiotics. Wound infections can delay the healing of your wound and can mean that you have a more noticeable scar.

Bleeding

It's normal to have some bleeding during the operation. You may bleed more than expected during or immediately after a caesarean birth.

Sometimes this may mean that you need a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion means blood goes into your veins through a drip.

Blood clots

Blood clots can form in your legs after a birth. This is known as deep venous thrombosis or DVT. The risk is higher after a caesarean.

If these clots travel to your lungs, they can be dangerous and even fatal. To prevent this, you will need to wear elastic stockings after the procedure.

Almost all women who have a caesarean birth get heparin injections for up to a week afterwards to prevent blood clots. Some women with extra risk factors will need to take it for longer.

Your doctors and midwives will assess your risk and advise you accordingly.

When it is safe to do so, try to be as active as possible. This will reduce your risk of blood clots.

Reducing the risk of complications

Caesarean birth complications are more common if you're overweight or obese. Try to maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy, and be as fit and active as possible. This will help your recovery.

Related topics

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy

Risks to your baby from a caesarean birth

There is a very small risk of your baby being accidentally cut during the caesarean section. If this happens the cut is likely to be small and not very deep. It will heal easily. A small dressing or paper adhesive stitches may be used.

Sometimes the doctors use forceps to help deliver the baby at the caesarean section. This can leave a mark that usually fades quickly.

Babies born by caesarean section can sometimes experience breathing difficulties. Their breathing can be fast and shallow. This is called transient tachypnoea of the newborn (TTN). It is temporary.

Babies with breathing problems may need to be cared for in a special care baby unit (SCBU) or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Related topic

Neonatal intensive care and special baby care units

Page last reviewed: 17/09/2018
Next review due: 17/09/2021