What Happens During The C-Section Procedure Step By Step

The C-Section procedure is a surgical process that requires an incision to be made on the mother’s abdomen to lift the baby from the womb. The procedure, without complications, takes only about 15-20 minutes and is painless.

If this will be your first C-Section or even or second, knowing what takes place and having a few tips to prepare you will go a long way with helping calm your nerves and fears, and make your baby’s birth one that you will enjoy and remember.

At least that’s my hope :-)

The C-Section Procedure – Step by Step


If your C-Section has been planned, you will be taken to a C-Section preparation room to prepare for your surgery. This is where you’ll be hooked up to a fetal monitor so that the doctors and the nurses can observe the baby and her vital signs.

Next you will be given your pain medication which will be an epidural or spinal.  This type of anesthesia will numb your body from about your waist area to your feet allowing you to remain awake during the procedure.  Here’s more information on the differerence  between epidural and Spinal Anesthesia.

If your doctor determines that you should not be awake you will be administered a local anesthesia and you will not be awake at all.

You will also receive an I.V. (intravenous fluid) in your arm or hand to make sure your body is kept hydrated and medicated during the procedure.

Next, you will have a catheter inserted to drain your urine during the surgery.

Tip:   Request that you get your anesthesia before the catheter is inserted; you want your anesthesia first, as inserting the catheter can sting a little.

When your doctor feels you are ready, you will be wheeled to the operating room where the c-section procedure will begin.

You will have surgical drape that will be placed directly in front of your view so that you will not be able to see the surgery. Your birthing partner will be suited up in sterile medical clothing and will be allowed to stand next to you.  If your partner wishes, he will be able to view the surgery by looking around the drape.

Tip:  If you’d like the drape taken down, you can ask for that.

Usually the anesthesiologist, the person who administered your pain medication, will sit directly beside you as well.  This is to help ensure you are comfortable and relaxed.  The anesthesiologist is also there to answer any questions you may have about the procedure, so if you want to know something at any time during your surgery, be sure to ask, they are there to help.

Before the start of the procedure your abdomen will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.

The actual c-section procedure involves the doctor making a small horizontal incision, about 8-10 inches just above your pelvic line.  (Most non emergency C-Sections involve using the horizontal or bikini cut incision).   As the incision is made you may feel a little pulling and tugging sensation as the baby is pulled out, but you won’t experience any pain.

Soon after the incision is made the doctor will lift out the baby’s head and suction the amniotic fluid from her mouth, then he will lift the rest of your baby completely out.

One thing to note is that when having a vaginal delivery, the fluid that accumulated in your baby’s lungs is naturally squeezed out during the process of going through the birth canal, however with a c-section, your baby does not go through the birth canal and will need a little extra help with squeezing out the fluid, in some cases oxygen may also given to baby.

Once the amniotic fluid is all out, the baby is then handed to the nurse where she will be weighed, cleaned and wrapped.

If you are awake for the delivery, you may be able to see the baby before she goes to the nursery. Your partner may also hold the baby.

While your baby is being tended to the doctor will take out the placenta, and the anesthesiologist will administer Pitocin which works to reduce bleeding by contracting the uterus.  You may also receive an antibiotic to help fight any chance of infection.

The doctor will sew you up using either sutures or staples.  You will have both a uterine (internal) incision and an outer (skin) incision.   If this is your first c-section the whole procedure may take only about 15 minutes, if this is a subsequent C-section, the procedure may take longer.  This is sometimes due to scar tissue build up from previous surgeries.

Once the C-Section procedure is completed you will be moved to the recovery room where you will be closely monitored before moving to your hospital room where your c-section recovery will begin.

For a new mom that isn’t familiar with having a C-Section, your doctor and hospital will follow a very routine procedure, however today more doctors and hospitals are embracing what we now call the ‘Gentle Cesarean’ which allows flexibility for personal options during the procedure.  Here’s more great information on that:

http://www.worry-free-c-section.com/3425/the-gentle-cesarean/

One last thing…

I highly recommend creating your own personal C-Section birth plan that includes your preferences clearly within it.   If you don’t research your options and you don’t specify your procedure wishes to your doctor and the hospital, you’re likely to have decisions made for you that you didn’t necessarily want.  So have a list of preferences and make sure you request them in your birth plan.

For more personal tips, suggestions and essential information on the C-Section procedure as well as recovery help grab a copy of the Worry Free C-Section guide – now on Kindle!

7 comments

  1. Morgan says:

    Elizabeth-
    I think we both have similar goals for our blogs- to help educate women about c-sections and to help women know they can still have an enjoyable birth even with a c-section.

    Would you be willing to link to my site and I to you?

  2. Belaynesh says:

    Hi, it is not actually a comment, it is a question. It will be my 5th c-section. Would U please explain the risks which I will encounter. Thank U

  3. Kathryn says:

    It says after the incision you won’t feel pain. Does this imply that the incision itself hurts? I’m getting my first one in March due to a pelvic injury and am petrified. I think mainly it’s just the mental part of knowing I’ll be awake while my stomach is cut open. I also tensed up at the thought of feeling the incision being made. Any words of comfort you can send will be great! :)

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Kathryn, Sorry, I think that was a poor choice of words, I should have said ‘as’ the incision is made you don’t feel pain. In other words, you are numbed from the waist down and you won’t feel anything at all. When I had my C-Sections I remember thinking myself that if I’m awake how in the world can I not feel anything? But you really don’t feel a thing.

    I know it’s hard but try to stay relaxed, stay focused on having your baby. The whole C-Section procedure is really easy for both you and baby, all you need to do is relax and focus on the fact that you’ll be holding your baby soon. Don’t worry, you’ll come out of it wondering why you ever felt scared :-)

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