A caesarean section or C-section is a surgical procedure where an incision is made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. A C-section is done under epidural anaesthesia where the mother’s body is numbed below the waist and she remains conscious during the procedure or under general anaesthesia depending on the reason for the surgery and the mother’s preference.
When is C-section recommended?
If you have had a C-section during your first birth, you may be able to deliver vaginally during your subsequent births, also known as having a VBAC. However, this is dependent on several factors, such as the reason for your initial C section, number of previous C-sections and the type of incision made during your first C-section.
The entire labour process and experience varies between each woman and can last between 12 to 24 hours, especially for a first-time mother. Labour is usually shorter for subsequent pregnancies.
If your contractions are bearable, you may continue resting at home or doing some light relaxing activities to cope with the labour pains. You should continue eating and stay hydrated during this period. There are various positions or breathing exercises which can help ease early labour discomfort. Head to the hospital if your contractions are becoming more painful (a contraction is considered strong if you are unable to talk through it) and occurring regularly about 10 minutes apart, or if you notice any vaginal bleeding or leakage of water.
In the active labour stage, the cervix starts to dilate more rapidly from 4cm to 10cm. Your contractions will increase in frequency and intensity – occurring around every 5 minutes and lasting about 60 – 90 seconds each time. This stage may last as short as 1 hour or up to 8 hours for some women. Some women experience side effects of the intense pain such as nausea and shakiness at this stage. Your obstetrician will monitor you and your baby’s heartbeat closely throughout this process. When the cervix has fully dilated to 10cm, the doctor will encourage you to start pushing until your baby’s head and body emerges. This process may last for 1 – 2 hours. If necessary, your doctor may make an incision called an episiotomy to widen the vaginal opening and assist the delivery of your baby.
Pain management during labour
During labour, you may opt for medical options for pain relief, or practice natural pain management techniques to manage the pain. The most common agents used for pain management are epidural (a local anaesthetic which numbs the nerves carrying the pain impulses from the birth canal to the brain), gas and air, and intra-muscular injection.
Congratulations, your baby has arrived! Immediately after delivery, amniotic fluid, mucus and blood will be suctioned from your newborn’s mouth and nose. Your baby will be placed on your chest for skin-to-skin contact and the umbilical cord will be cut. At this stage, you may feel lighter contractions starting again as your placenta detaches itself in preparation for delivery. Your doctor may gently pull the umbilical cord and massage the uterus to facilitate the process. The placenta, which has provided your baby with nourishment in the womb, is also delivered. Your doctor will then clean and stitch up the wound. Over the next few hours, you will also be monitored to ensure the uterus is contracting back in size and no excessive bleeding is taking place.
Now that the hard work is over, it’s time to have a good rest before looking forward to the next stage of your journey: motherhood.