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 goes a long way for helping calm your nerves and fears making your baby’s birth one that you will enjoy and remember.

At least that’s my hope :-)

The C-Section Procedure – Step by Step

Preparation for your C-Section

Once it been determined that you will need a C-Section you will be taken to a C-Section preparation room where you will prepare for your surgery.  A couple of things will happen at this time. Your pain medication will be administered in the form of an epidural or Spinal.  Here’s more information on the differerence  between epidural and Spinal Anesthesia.

If for some reason your doctor determines that you should not be awake during surgery 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 and after the procedure.

Additionally you will have a catheter inserted to drain your urine. Once you begin walking during your recovery the catheter will be removed, which is typically about a day or so after your surgery.

Tip:   Request that you get your anesthesia before the catheter is inserted because inserting the catheter can sting a little.

Finally, when all the prep is done and your doctor feels you are ready, you will be wheeled to the operating room where the c-section procedure will begin.

Right before the procedure begins a surgical drape will be placed directly in front of your view so that you will not be able to see the surgery. In most cases your I.V arm will be strapped down to prevent movement. This is precautionary so your I.V. does not come loose during the procedure.

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, be sure to ask for that.

Usually the anesthesiologist, the person who administering your pain medication, will sit directly beside you.  This is to 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; your anesthesiologist is there to help.

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

The C-Section Procedure

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).   There will be an outer incision made through the skin followed by a uterine incision.

Note that how the uterine incision is made is significant because it can affect your ability to have a vaginal birth or VBAC in the future.  Ideally you want your uterine incision to be the low transverse incision.

After the incisions are made you may feel pulling and tugging sensations as the baby is pulled out; but you won’t experience any pain. Soon the baby’s head will be lifted out and the doctor will suction the amniotic fluid from her mouth. After that  your doctor will lift the rest of your baby completely out.   Baby is then handed to the nurse where she will be weighed, cleaned and wrapped.

One thing to note is that during a vaginal delivery, the fluid that accumulated in your baby’s lungs is naturally squeezed which is part of the process of passing through the birth canal,  with a c-section however, your baby does not go through the birth canal so she’ll need a little help with squeezing out the fluid, in some cases oxygen may also given to baby.

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 briefly at this time.

While your baby is being tended to the doctor will take out the placenta, and the anesthesiologist will administer Pitocin through your I.V. 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 close your incision 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, however you can expect to be in the operating room for about an hour or so. If this is a subsequent C-section, the procedure may take slightly 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 I’d highly recommend you look into if you know you will be having a C-Section birth.  This ‘gentle’ Cesarean trend is more woman, baby and family centered; which I love. There are also many more personal options open to you that enhance bonding and heighten the birth experience for all involved.

Oh, and one last thing…

I highly recommend creating your own personal C-Section birth plan that includes your preferences clearly within it.  You have options, even when having a C-Section; things like type of anesthesia, skin-to-skin after birth, no drape, immediate breastfeeding option, etc.  If you don’t specify your wishes you risk having decisions  made for you that you may not necessarily want.  So have a list of preferences and make sure you request them in your birth plan.

Here’s to an awesome C-Section birth 😉


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

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7 thoughts on “What Happens During The C-Section Procedure Step By Step

  1. 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 :-)

  2. 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! :)

  3. 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

  4. Morgan says:

    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?

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