There are a variety of complications that may occur during the course of labor that make it difficult or impossible for a woman to deliver her baby vaginally. If the baby is having problems, the fetal monitor attached to the mother’s abdomen can help alert the providers. A general term for this is “non-reassuring fetal testing.” Sometimes administering oxygen, changing the mother’s position, or giving her large amounts of fluid through her IV can help this situation. In other cases, a cesarean section may be needed.
Twenty-five percent of babies are delivered by cesarean section. Sometimes moms know in advance if a Cesarean delivery will be required, but other times, that decision isn’t made until labor is underway. It’s a good idea to be prepared emotionally and intellectually just in case it’s necessary for you to have a Cesarean delivery.
Having a Cesarean delivery doesn’t necessarily mean that a mom can’t participate in the birth of her baby. Advances in regional anesthesia mean that in some cases, moms can be awake and aware during the cesarean delivery. Depending on the situation, some hospitals allow dads to be in the operating room. Generally, a sterile drape is arranged around the abdomen, and a screen is set up so that mom does not have to watch the provider make the incision.
In other cases, a general anesthetic may be necessary. General anesthesia sometimes takes effect faster, and may be best for an emergency situation. This type of anesthesia does make mom unconscious during the procedure.
After anesthesia has taken effect, the provider makes a cut in the mother’s lower abdomen, and then a second incision in her uterus. The baby is eased out, either by hand or with forceps or a vacuum extractor. The cord is clamped and cut, the placenta is removed, and the provider then closes the incisions.