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Cesarean (C-Section) Births: Common Questions & Answers

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 30 percent of all births in the United States are performed via cesarean delivery (C-section). Below, we explore common questions surrounding C-section births, including why your doctor may recommend it and why vaginal births are still the preferred delivery method.

Why would a doctor recommend a C-section birth?

There are a number of reasons why your doctor may recommend a cesarean delivery. Common examples include:

  • History of prior cesarean delivery
  • Contraindications (medical symptom/condition) that may prevent a woman from going through the process of labor

pregnant woman talking to doctorExamples of contraindications include:

  • Prior uterine surgery
  • Active genital infection (such as HSV) at the time of labor
  • Distress of the infant during labor
  • Abnormal labor
  • When the baby is not in the “head down” position

It seems as though vaginal births are preferable. Why?

One of the key reasons why vaginal birth is preferable to cesarean include the risks associated with surgery. These risks typically include: bleeding, infection, and risk to other nearby abdominal organs, such as the bladder, bowel, major blood vessels, and nerves.

Additionally, patients tend to have a shorter recovery time after a vaginal delivery. They typically experience less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay, and earlier resumption of activity – including exercise.

How long does it take to fully recover from a C-section vs. a vaginal delivery?

We typically counsel patients to expect to spend 2-4 nights in the hospital following a cesarean delivery. Full recovery is estimated at approximately six weeks. It can take 3-4 weeks before a patient is able to drive, following a cesarean.

Patients who deliver vaginally can expect to stay in the hospital 1 – 2 nights.

The major difference between a vaginal delivery versus a C-section comes in the recovery process. It takes more time to achieve ambulation (ability to walk around), eating a regular diet, and pain control to be able to carry out daily activities with a C-section versus vaginal delivery.

How long does an actual C-section procedure take (start to finish)?

Typically, a cesarean delivery will take approximately one hour. It can take longer if there is a history of prior abdominal surgery or prior cesarean due to the presence of scar tissue.

About Elizabeth Jarvis, MD

Dr. Jarvis is an OB/GYN with WakeMed Physician Practices. Her clinical interests include fertility, abnormal uterine bleeding, minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery, family planning and contraception, high risk and routine obstetrics care.