As with any other majcor surgery, Cesarean section poses certain potential risks to the mother and the baby. Risks to the mother:
- Injury to the nearby structures like - ureters, urinary bladder, intestines.
- Perforation or hole in the uterus.
- Aspiration or inhalation of the contents of the stomach into the lungs during anesthesia is the most dreaded complication of general anesthesia during a Cesarean section. This can be avoided to some extent by ensuring a minimum starvation period of six hours for solid food and milk. This precaution may have to be bypassed during an emergency
- Amniotic fluid embolism is the entry of amniotic fluid from the mother's womb into the blood stream and then into the lungs. This complication carries a very high mortality but fortunately it is also very rare. It cannot be prevented.
- Shock due to excess bleeding
Post-operative late complications to the mother include -
- Infection of the wound site
- Thrombosis or clot formation in the large veins of the leg or hips can occur. If these clots get dislodged from the leg and move into the lung, they can cause a fatal complication called pulmonary embolus
- Ileus or paralysis of the bowels for a couple of days which then recovers.
- Atelectasis is collapse of a portion of the lungs, which is quite common after an abdominal surgery under anesthesia.
- Urinary tract infection (UTI) is also a possible complication in the post-operative period.
- Fever can also annoy the mother occasionally.
- Headache due to the spinal anesthesia.
- Adhesions due to the formation of scar tissue, resulting in pain and complications in future pregnancies.
- Death - Although the procedure is very safe in experienced hands, there is still a slightly higher risk of maternal mortality in a Cesarean section than a vaginal delivery. The WHO does not recommend this procedure when vaginal delivery is possible.
Besides these, the mother also experiences a longer stay in the hospital and a longer recovery time as compared to the one undergoing a vaginal delivery.
An increased incidence of postnatal depression is seen in women who deliver through a cesarean section, therefore emotional support must be adequately provided by the family.
Risks to the baby:
Recovery and Recuperation after a Cesarean
- Prematurity - There is a risk of the baby being born prematurely if the gestational age is miscalculated.
- Respiratory problems are observed more in babies born through Cesarean sections than vaginal deliveries.
- Lower APGAR (test to assess a new bornís well-being) score has been observed in babies born through Cesarean section.
- Injury may occur during the procedure though it is very rarely seen.
Recovery after a cesarean section takes longer than after a vaginal delivery. One can expect around six weeks for the body to heal completely.
Pain at the incision site and in the lower abdomen can continue for a couple of weeks and may require the use of pain-killers like NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to combat the same.
The patient needs to avoid strenuous activity and intercourse for a few weeks and take adequate rest.
The incision site needs to be observed for any signs of infection like increased pain, redness or discharge.
Normally after 24 hours the mother can start moving around and can even commence on a soft diet.
The sutures are removed on the 5th day and if all is well, the mother is allowed to go home.
Each individual requires 3-4 weeks to get back to normal. The mother can resume normal activities after about a month.Health tips for Smooth Recovery after Cesarean Section
Here are a few tips to help you recover after a cesarean section:
- Rest- Taking plenty of rest is important as a cesarean section is a major surgery and the body needs time to heal. Ease into the routine and do not rush it.
- Avoid strenuous activity- Do not lift heavy weights after a cesarean section. Do not engage in physical exercise that involves the abdominal muscles till your doctor tells you it is okay to.
- Avoid sex- Take your own time to get back into the normalcy of your pre-pregnancy life, even the act of lovemaking. Your doctor will usually advise you to refrain from intercourse for around six weeks, which is how long it takes for the wound to heal and your body to feel better.
- Eat healthy- It is the time to eat healthy and not indulge in food high in fat content as is commonly believed in some communities. Eat food rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids to help in the repair process.
- Walk- Rest is important but bed-rest is not. As soon as your doctor advises, start walking, gradually increasing the time spent doing it. Walking helps improve the bowel movement and avoids constipation, improves circulation and hastens recovery and also helps in avoiding complications like clot formation.
- Stay calm- Childbirth in itself is a huge event, whether vaginally or through cesarean section. The emotional and physical ramification are huge. It is, therefore, important to stay calm and focus on the positive things. In case you feel you are suffering from post-partum depression, which is very common, seek professional help.