What are the risks of a Caesarean section?
A Caesarean birth involves major abdominal surgery, therefore it is important to weigh the benefits against the risks in each case.
A vaginal birth is overall four times safer for a woman than having a Caesarean section. However, an elective Caesarean section is much safer than an emergency Caesarean section.
Following a Caesarean operation, women are more at risk of:
(a) Infection of the womb and incision and other organs such as the bladder
(b) Heavy bleeding. There is more blood loss in Caesarean section than normal delivery. In some circumstances where there is heavy bleeding, this may lead to anaemia requiring blood transfusion
(c) Blood clot formation in the legs or the lungs.
(d) Injury to the bowel or bladder. The risk is increased if this is a repeat Caesarean section whereby adhesion (scar tissue) formation from the previous surgery may alter the normal anatomy of the organs causing it more vulnerable to injury.
(e) More pain relief required. Compare to having a normal birth, woman who had a Caesarean section requires more pain relief after the procedure.
(f) Adhesion (scar tissue) formation. The formation of scar tissue inside the pelvic organs may lead to pain and obstructions to the bowel.
(g) Longer hospital stay. You would expect to stay in the hospital for 2-3 days after the operation compares to those who had a normal birth
(h) Longer recovery. It takes longer for you to your normal activities than if you have a normal birth. After a Caesarean section, getting out if bed and walking around is more difficult and painful initially. You may also experience more difficulty in using the stairs and to carry things including your baby. Daily activities which requires bending down, lifting or stretching could prove to be difficult for several weeks
(i) Higher cost. Caesarean section is most costly than having a normal birth
(j) Implications towards the future pregnancy. There is a higher risk of having another caesarean section for your next pregnancy if you are having a Caesarean section for this pregnancy. There is also increased risk of the scar of the womb opening up in your future pregnancy although the risk is small. There is also a higher risk of low lying placenta (placenta praevia in your next pregnancy. The risk of pregnancy outside your womb (ectopic pregnancy) is also increased
(k) Psychological implication. Some women feel a sense of loss or failure as a result of having a Caesarean birth. They may require some support to overcome these negative feelings towards their birthing experience.
Complications for the baby:
(a) Babies who are born via Caesarean section are at higher risk of breathing difficulties. The risk can be reduced by waiting until at least 39 weeks to have a Caesarean section
(b) The baby may suffer a minor cut as the womb is opened up during the surgery. However, this cut is usually minor and heals well without causing long term disabilities or scar.