A C-section is a major abdominal surgery and poses the same risks associated with any surgery. These include hemorrhage, infection, bad reaction to anesthesia, extended recovery time, and other potential injuries. The risks and complications are not only for mom but for baby too.
C-Section risks are nothing to take lightly and here’s why you should take having a C-Section very seriously.
It has been estimated that there are about 6-22 maternal deaths that occur each year in the U.S with slightly higher rates occurring with emergency C-Sections.
It’s also important to note that the higher C-Section maternal rates don’t always occur due to C-Section surgery itself; they often come from complications of a medical condition – Source WebMD
What are the C-Section Risks?
Risks for Mom
– Scar Tissue and Adhesions Risks
Any time you have major abdominal surgery, which is what a C-Section is, you will experience C-section scar tissue and adhesions.
Are they life threatening, not always, but they can be if adhesions adhere to organs like your intestines causing severe blockages. Most often however they cause discomfort and complications.
Adhesions are the internal scar tissue that will sometimes adhere to other organs or tissues. Not all adhesions cause complications or are problematic, but for the few cases it does, scar tissue can cause pain, pulling sensations, or bowel complications.
– The Risk of Adenomyosis
Adenomyosis is a uterine thickening that occurs when the endometrial tissue that lines the uterine wall grows into the muscular wall of the uterus. It’s often confused with endometriosis which is when the uterine lining implants itself outside the uterine. However it’s not uncommon for women who have adenomyosis to also have endometriosis
Adenomyosis is hard to diagnose and is often confused with fibroids. But if you have been diagnosed with Adenomyosis, it can cause severe pain during periods and pain during sexual intercourse.
– Increased bleeding or Possible Transfusion Risks
Blood loss is normal with a c-section and is expected any time there is surgery. But there have been instances that required a blood transfusion; but it’s rare.
– Postpartum Endomyometritis
This is an infection of the uterine tissues. This occurs in about 30-40% of women who have a C-Section. It’s also a major cause of maternal morbidity. The infection is typically caused by bacteria in the vaginal tract that enters into the uterus during labor and delivery.
– Incision Infection Risks
C-Section incision infections are very common, but they are completely avoidable if you follow proper incision care instructions. Incision infections are not necessarily life threatening but they can delay your recovery, especially if the infection is serious enough that hospitalization is necessary. Infections can also create larger scars that take longer to heal and diminish.
– Injuries to the bowel or bladder
Because the uterus is so close to the bowel and the bladder area, injury can occur during surgery. Even though this is extremely rare there have been a number of cases reported. However with the use of the a new C safe scalpel, injuries are less likely to occur. Using this type of Scalpel may be something to discuss with your doctor.
– Blood clots in legs, pelvic organs or lungs
Blood clots most commonly occur in the legs. In rare cases they can move to the lungs, causing a condition called pulmonary embolus. Blood clots are best prevented by getting up and moving around as soon after surgery as possible. Today however many hospitals will put compression boots on your legs which are designed to help prevent blood clotting.
– Longer Recovery & Hospital Stay
Your C-Section Recovery will take longer than recovering from a vaginal birth and your hospital stay is about twice as long, usually about 2-3 days longer. Your overall recovery can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, but many C-Section moms will tell you they don’t actually feel completely recovered until about 2-3 months. It’s different for every woman, but you can be sure that for about the first week to ten days you’ll feel extremely sore and tired.
– Uterine Rupture
Rupture of the uterus is rare with the first C-Section but it can put mom at risk for subsequent births.
The risk occurs if the previous C-Section internal scar or incision tears or breaks open during pregnancy or labor. If this happens a blood transfusion or possibly a hysterectomy may be needed.
The risk with subsequent births is low at only about 1% however, that percentage is often too high for many doctors meaning they advise a repeat C-Section versus a VBAC or vaginal birth after C-Section.
C-Section Risks For Baby
– Surgical cuts
A c-section may cause a baby to be accidentally cut or nicked during the surgery. These cuts are generally minor but they can happen. Even though these are minor, it can still be tough for a mom to see her newborn be cut.
– Respiratory problems
Studies have shown that a c-section baby born before the 39th week of pregnancy is at greater risk for mild to serious lung and breathing problems or Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
Just having a c-section alone presents the likelihood of respiratory problems for baby, however the risk increases with planned c-sections before the 39th week.
– Breastfeeding Difficulties
The affect C-Sections have on breastfeeding are minimal but they can be significant especially if a mom’s milk takes longer to come, which often happens for C-Section moms.
Slow milk production adds the challenge that baby won’t be as satisfied as readily as vaginal babies. But also, C-Section babies are often sleepy or lethargic from the anesthesia mom received during the C-Section procedure. Even though the epidural and spinal anesthesia are not harmful to the baby, it can make them sleepy and this makes breastfeeding a greater challenge.
If you do find it difficult to breastfeed, be sure to check with your hospital’s breast feeding team and check in on the La Leche League, they are very helpful for breastfeeding moms.
When discussing the risks of having a C-Section try to remember that risk is defined as a probability of danger and that not all risk will apply to you. But more importantly many C-Section risks can be avoided with careful thought, thorough discussions with your doctor and understanding the risks and how they pertain to you.
Certainly don’t stress about the C-Section risks, simply be smart about your choices and follow carefully your doctors orders 🙂
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles and Freedigitalphotos.net