Emergency C-Section – Reasons, Risks And Recovery

5 min read

Childbirth can be extremely unpredictable. When you are pregnant, all you yearn for is a normal delivery and a healthy baby during labor even if that means going through a lot of pain and discomfort. Even if you would have planned for a vaginal birth, normal delivery cannot always be the outcome. There can be circumstances that can make an emergency C-section inevitable in order to keep the mother and baby safe from any further complications. When you are nearing your due date, it is better that you understand what an emergency C-section involves so that you are well prepared if you end up in this situation.
C section

What Is An Emergency C-Section?

A caesarean delivery is done by making incisions in the abdomen and uterus of the pregnant woman and delivering the baby quickly. If labor has already started and due to some complications it is not progressing as desired, then there can be a need for an emergency C-section. Often C-sections are planned and scheduled well in advance in cases where the mother or the baby have a medical condition that makes vaginal delivery difficult. Planned C-section is never an emergency irrespective of what the medical condition is. But sometimes, for women who have opted for vaginal delivery, caesarean section becomes a lifesaving procedure during emergencies.

How Does An Emergency C-Section Differ From A Planned C-Section?

Emergency C-section differs from planned or scheduled C-section in the following way:

  • The time frame: Unlike scheduled C-section for which there will be enough time for preparation, for an emergency C-section procedure the decision to proceed with the surgery and start the procedure will not be more than 30 minutes. Depending on the emergency, time window can even be shorter
  • The method of anesthesia: During an emergency C-section, more often, general anesthesia will be given and the mother will be put to sleep throughout the procedure. This is because, in a case of an emergency, there will not be enough time or condition to place an epidural or spinal block. If an epidural is already given to the mother, there will not be enough time to give an additional dose of the medicine to make her comfortable through the surgery. Whereas, in case of scheduled C-section, epidural is given so that mother will be awake throughout the procedure
  • Recovery time: The recovery time is different in both cases. In the case of an emergency C-section, the mother will feel more groggy or nauseous due to the effect of general anesthesia. Also, you will be separated from your baby for a longer time in case of an emergency C-section as you will be under general anesthesia. Whereas, in case of scheduled C-section this will not be the case
8 Reasons For An Emergency C-Section

If you need an emergency C-section then it means that your doctor has decided that you or your baby are unsafe and an immediate delivery through a C-section is the only way out. Here are some reasons that can lead to emergency C-section:

  1. Fetal distress: When the oxygen supply of your baby is compromised in the womb, it is known as fetal distress. It can lead to decreased fetal heart rate and can be dangerous for your baby. It usually occurs during labor but can sometimes happen even in the third trimester of pregnancy. Fetal distress is the most common reason for an emergency C-section
  2. Cephalopelvic disproportion: This happens when the pelvis of the mother is small and thus obstructs the baby’s head to smoothly pass through the birth canal. This condition is usually diagnosed at the birth table and makes vaginal delivery difficult and an emergency C-section inevitable
  3. Uterine rupture: If you have undergone a C-section in your previous delivery, then you can opt for vaginal birth in your subsequent pregnancy or VBAC. But bear in mind that most of the time a vaginal birth after a C-section can lead to uterine rupture along a previous C-section scar thus leading to an emergency C-section in the delivery room
  4. Mother is too tired: If the mother becomes too exhausted to push the baby out or if some other health issues in the mother emerges in the delivery room, then an emergency C-section is performed
  5. Prolapsed umbilical cord: This is a rare condition but whenever it occurs, it calls for an emergency C-section. A cord prolapse happens when even before the baby is born, the umbilical cord slides through the cervix and comes out of the vagina. The pressure of the cord from the fetus will cause the umbilical cord to compress thereby cutting off the oxygen supply to the fetus, which is a life-threatening situation
  6. Delay in dilation: Sometimes even if the pregnant woman is having intense labor pains, the cervix might not dilate enough for the baby to pass through the birth canal. This delay in dilation of cervix can also be another reason for an emergency C-section
  7. Placental abruption: Placental abruption is a condition in which the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterine lining even before the delivery. Emergency C-section is the only option to save the baby who can be deprived of the oxygen and nutrients and the mother who can experience heavy bleeding
  8. Failure of labor to progress: During the second stage of labor, if the labor slows down or completely stops (which can happen due to several reasons like Cephalopelvic disproportion, weak contractions, posterior presentation, etc.), emergency C-section is performed
How Long Does An Emergency C-Section Take To Perform?

The aim of an emergency C-section is to get the baby out as soon as possible, thereby saving the life of the baby or mother or both. Therefore, (as mentioned before) the time window from deciding to go to an emergency C–section to the start the surgery will be very short. If the C-section is an emergency, the time from the incision to delivery will take about two minutes.
stitches after delivery

What Is The Recovery Time For An Emergency C-Section?

Recovering from a C-section takes longer time than a vaginal delivery. Recovery time from an emergency C-section will be longer than that of a scheduled C-section relying on the issue that makes an emergency C-section a necessity. If the emergency C-section is due to fetal distress the recovery period will be as same as a scheduled C-section. On the other hand, if an emergency C-section is performed due to some maternal complication, the recovery time will also depend on nature and how intense that complication was. Mostly the mothers will be discharged within 8 days after the surgery. However, lifting weights or doing any difficult tasks or exercises will not be permitted for another 6 to 8 weeks. To help you recover better:

    • Get plenty of rest
    • Eat healthy and nutritious food
    • Indulge in short walks
    • Take help from family and friends for household chores
    • In case you are concerned about anything, check with your doctor

Also read: 12 Self Help Tips When Recovering From A C-Section Delivery

What Are The Risks And Complication Of An Emergency C-Section?

In the first place, an emergency C-section is performed due to some complications during delivery. Therefore, several risks are involved during and after an emergency C-section.

  • The chances of excessive bleeding are high
  • Chances of developing complications from the rapidly administered anesthesia are also high
  • Possibility of an injury to the internal organs of mother (like adjacent organs like bowel or bladder) is higher in emergency C-section than a planned C-section
  • Likewise, the chances of injury to the baby is also high in an emergency C-section
  • The chances of infections and developments of blood clots are also high in an emergency C-section
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