How to Perform an Emergency C-Section

Doctors perform emergency cesarian sections, also known as C-sections, when mothers can't give birth vaginally due to health complications or when the baby's life is in danger. The average C-section takes about 45 minutes, and spouses or partners can be present during the procedure. Doctors perform emergency C-sections when sudden complications arise or if labor is stalled. Complications may include problems with the placenta, the infant's being in an abnormal position or a tangled umbilical cord threatening a healthy vaginal delivery.


    • 1

      Prepare the patient for a C-section. Preparation for a C-section starts when a health care provider cleans the patient's abdomen. In some cases, a tube called a catheter is used to collect urine from the bladder. Then an intravenous (IV) line is placed in the patient's arm or hand for medication and fluids delivery. Antacids may be used to help avoid an upset stomach during the emergency C-section.

    • 2

      Administer anesthesia. Pain is blocked with regional anesthesia--numbing medications injected into the sac around the spine. This type of anesthesia--as opposed to epidural anesthesia--is generally used for an emergency C-section because it's quicker acting. With regional anesthesia, the patient will be awake during the delivery. In some emergency cases, general anesthesia is required. The medication is usually delivered through the IV line, although sometimes a patient is given a type of gas to fall asleep quickly. Gas is delivered through a mask.

    • 3

      Retrieve the baby. A quick vertical abdominal incision that runs from just below the navel to right above the pubic bone is made to retrieve the baby. (When time isn't a big factor, incisions are usually horizontal, along the pubic hair line.) Next, the uterus is opened with a horizontal incision. If a woman is having complications such as placenta previa--overgrowth of the placenta--the doctor may opt for a different type of uterine incision.

    • 4

      Attend to the baby and the mother after the C-section. A woman will feel movement as the physician retrieves the baby, but she should not feel pain. Once the baby is out, the doctor will clear fluids from the baby's nose and mouth and will clamp and cut the umbilical cord. After the placenta is retrieved from the uterus, the mother's incisions are closed with stitches.

    • 5

      Stay in the hospital during recovery. Most C-sections require a hospital stay of about three days, although that can vary if a patient has had complications. To control pain, medications are delivered via a pain pump, and a woman is encouraged to get up and move around in the first day. This movement helps the mother avoid constipation caused by the pain medications and will help lessen the risk of blood clots that can endanger her life.

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