A caesarean birth is usually performed if a normal vaginal birth is not possible because it is too risky for mother and child. Thanks to regional anaesthesia, the mother can experience the birth despite the caesarean. And the father may also be present.

A caesarean birth, known in medical terms as a sectio caesarea, is a relatively common way of giving birth. Around 30% of children in Switzerland are born by caesarean. The decision to undergo a caesarean is usually made during the pregnancy. An unplanned or emergency caesarean is performed when complications occur during a natural birth. Mother and child must not be endangered by a switch to an unplanned caesarean.

When is a caesarean birth necessary?

There are many reasons for a planned caesarean. Medical circumstances play just as much of a role as personal reasons. Some women decide to undergo a caesarean because they simply prefer this type of birth over others. The medical indications for a caesarean include:

  • Pelvis is too small for a vaginal birth
  • Breech or oblique presentation of the child
  • The placenta (afterbirth) is lying in front of the cervix and is blocking the birth canal
  • Detachment of the placental from the uterine wall
  • Deformity of the child (e.g. open spine, spina bifida)
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Infection of the amniotic sac, fetal membranes
  • Signs that the child is getting insufficient oxygen include: Slowing of the child's heartbeat
  • Pre-eclempsia, gestational hypertension of the mother
  • Every situation during the birth which endangers the life of the child or the mother

What preparations are carried out before the procedure?

A planned caesarean is usually carried out in the 38th week of pregnancy. The patient is usually admitted to hospital a few hours before the operation. Patients should have an empty stomach for the procedure. There is one final pregnancy examination before the caesarean. The patient's public hair is shaved and a bladder catheter is inserted before the operation. A caesarean is usually carried out under regional anaesthesia with spinal anaesthesia. In this way, the mother will be fully conscious for the birth of her baby. The father of the child can naturally also be present during the caesarean. He sits near his partner's head and can support her during the caesarean birth.

How is the caesarean performed?

A caesarean birth is quick and generally only takes five to ten minutes.  The abdominal incision is made horizontally, usually at the height of the bikini line. The abdominal wall and the uterus are carefully opened and the child is born. The newborn is wrapped in warm towels and its mother can see and feel it. Afterwards, the father can care for the newborn together with the midwife while the mother's operation wound is sutured. The entire procedure takes around 45 minutes.

What are the possible complications and risks of a caesarean birth?

A caesarean is a low-risk routine procedure which normally proceeds without complications. As with all surgery, the operation may lead to infections, post-operative haemorrhaging or blood clots (thromboses) in rare cases. Sometimes there are growths in the abdomen.

What happens after the caesarean?

After the procedure, the mother spends around 2 hours on the monitoring ward. The child is already with her and she can already breastfeed it for the first time. If everything proceeds normally, mother and child can usually leave hospital in a few days. Women who have undergone this surgery should avoid lifting heavy objects and major physical exertion for some time. After a caesarean, the uterus does not contract as quickly as after a normal birth. The lochia discharge lasts somewhat longer. The standard follow-up check-up at the gynaecologist takes place four to six weeks later.

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