Caesarean birth

A caesarean birth, otherwise known as a caesarean section or C-section, is an operation to deliver your baby through a cut made in your tummy and womb.

The cut is usually made just below your bikini line.

Asking for a caesarean birth

You can ask for a caesarean birth at any time during your pregnancy, so speak to your midwife or doctor about your plans.

We’ll refer you to the listening and personalisation clinic. You’ll see a senior midwife who can answer all your questions about your caesarean birth.

You’ll also have a chance to discuss your plans with a consultant obstetrician.

Every question is an important question, so please ask us anything.

When you’re happy that all your questions have been answered and you want to go ahead, we’ll book your caesarean birth for a time near your due date.

A week to go

About a week before your caesarean birth you’ll have your pre-operative (or pre-op) assessment.

We’ll see how you and your baby are doing, give you all the information you need to prepare for the day, and answer any questions you have.

You'll also see an anaesthetist to talk about pain relief.

On the day

On the day, you’ll come to the delivery suite:

  • We’ll take any breast milk you’ve brought and put it in the fridge for later.
  • A midwife will then help you prepare for your birth.
  • Again, we’ll check on you and baby, and answer any other questions you have.

Going to theatre

Before you go to theatre we’ll give you some tablets that will help reduce acid reflux and sickness.

The obstetric and anaesthetic team will come and see you. Please ask us anything at any time.

Your midwife will walk you and your birth partner into theatre.

When you get there, the anaesthetist will insert a small tube called a cannula into your back for the anaesthetic.

You’ll have another small tube inserted into your bladder called a catheter which drains your wee into a bag.

Your caesarean usually takes less than hour.

About the epidural

The epidural or spinal anaesthetic is an injection that goes in your back to stop you feeling pain. This means you’ll be awake during the procedure.

Your caesarean birth

The midwife will check your baby’s heart rate one more time.

Next, the anaesthetist will check the epidural is working. You’ll feel some touch but no pain, so please tell us if something doesn’t feel right.

We put a drape in place to keep the area clean. Your birth partner can sit next to you behind the drape.

Your surgeon will start your caesarean birth when everything (and everyone – including you) is ready.

The surgeon will make a cut a 10cm to 20cm across your stomach and into your womb. You might feel some tugging or pulling, but no pain.

When your baby is born

When your baby is delivered, we’ll cut the umbilical cord after a minute.

We’ll then drop the screen so you can see your baby.

Before you start getting to know your new baby, the midwife will check them over to make sure they’re ok, including their heart rate and oxygen levels.

Your baby will get a vitamin K injection and a name band.

If everything is ok, you can cuddle your baby. Skin-to-skin contact will help you bond with your baby, and it'll give your baby’s health and wellbeing a boost.

The recovery ward

Next, you’ll go to the recovery ward. Your baby will stay with you unless they need medical attention.

The recovery ward is run by both midwives and nurses. They’re here to make sure your recovery goes smoothly.

Read more about recovering from your caesarean

Going home after your caesarean birth

We’ll try to get you home within 24 hours after your caesarean birth. You might need to stay longer if you need more care, or if you had an emergency caesarean.

We’re always here to help if you have questions. Just contact your midwife, or speak to your doctor.