Cesarean sections (C-sections) have increased in popularity over the past few decades. In 2010 alone, a little over 32 percent of all deliveries in the United States were C-sections. There are a myriad of reasons why C-sections are performed. Most often, they are performed out of medical necessity. In some cases, c-sections are planned if it is less risky to the mother or baby. While the reason may vary, one thing each C-section has in common is that there is a risk of C-Section injuries to both mother and infant.
What is a C-Section?
Cesarean delivery, or C-section, is a surgical procedure that delivers a baby through incisions in the abdomen. The surgeon makes incisions in the abdomen and through the uterus to deliver the baby.
During a C-section, you are awake. Before the procedure begins, an epidural or spinal block is injected into the lower back. This makes you numb from the chest down. After that, you will have a urine catheter inserted and will be cleaned and sterilized. The operating room team will place curtains near your chest so you can’t see what is happening, but you are awake and can communicate with your partner and healthcare team.
After the baby is delivered, you will be able to immediately see and cuddle him or her. Unless there are medical reasons why you can’t, you may even be able to immediately breastfeed. Once you are sutured and cleaned up, you and your baby will move to a recovery area.
Common Reasons for C-Sections
There are several reasons why a physician may feel a C-section is necessary or in the best interests of safety. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Placental problems, including placental abruption (premature separation of placenta), placental insufficiency and placenta previa
- Uterine ruptures, which affects 1 out of every 1,500 births
- An infant in the breech position, making normal delivery difficult
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Fetal distress
- No progress during labor
- Having previous C-sections
- Genital herpes (active)
- An infant diagnosed with a birth defect
- Carrying twins or multiples
What are C-Section Injuries?
Unfortunately, there are still risks involved with C-section deliveries. While some injuries cannot be predicted or prevented, others are a direct result of medical errors or medical negligence.
Fetal lacerations are cuts, scrapes and other similar injuries to an infant that can occur during a C-section procedure. In most cases, fetal lacerations occur due to a surgeon improperly making incisions or scraping the baby with surgical tools during delivery. Fetal lacerations range in severity, from mild to serious, and may lead to a host of other health conditions, including Erb’s palsy, Klumpke’s palsy, fractures and more.
Infant Breathing Problems
Infants are much more likely to experience breathing problems if they are delivered via C-section. It is important that babies are constantly monitored after birth as breathing problems may lead to respiratory distress syndrome and long-term health problems.
In some instances, physicians fail to schedule a C-section despite the fact that warning signs are present. For example, fetal distress is one of the most common reasons that C-sections are ordered. A delayed C-section can be caused by failure to closely monitor the mother or infant for signs of distress.
A delayed C-section can lead to a myriad of injuries. In the most severe cases, infant death may occur. Other consequences may include:
- Oxygen deprivation
- Infant brain damage
- Heightened risk of physical injuries
- Physical developmental delays
During a C-section, the mother is administered medications to ensure pain relief, usually an epidural or spinal block. It is extremely important that the dosage is not only correct but that the mother isn’t allergic to it. Incorrect dosage or complications can lead to anesthesia injuries, such as:
- Extremely low blood pressure
- Internal bleeding
- Blood clots
- Severe headaches
- Placenta previa
- Placental abruption
Maternal Surgical Injuries
Maternal surgical injuries are extremely rare, but if they occur, life-threatening health issues may follow. Surgical injuries happen when a nearby organ is cut or affected in some way during the C-section. If organs like the bladder or intestines are cut, additional surgery may be required to repair the damage.
Maternal infections are a possibility after any type of surgery, including C-sections. Physicians must be extremely careful to ensure proper sterilization of the incision site. They must also provide proper post-surgery treatment, such as antibiotics and appropriate wound care. When the mother does not receive appropriate care, she is at risk for infections, such as:
- Intra-amniotic infection, which increases the risk of a postpartum infection
- Extremely high fever
Blood clots are another risk after a C-section. However, they can be prevented in many cases if the mother is monitored and allowed to walk within 24 hours after the surgery. If a blood clot develops, there is a risk that it will break apart and travel to other parts of the body, including the brain, heart and lungs.
There is always a chance of increased bleeding after a surgical procedure. After a C-section, if bleeding is not kept under control, hemorrhaging may occur. Severe hemorrhages or uncontrolled bleeding may require a blood transfusion.
Prognosis for C-Section Injuries
C-section injuries are relatively uncommon, but they do happen. If injuries are recognized quickly and treatment is initiated, the prognosis after a C-section injury is generally good. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions while recovering in order to reduce the likelihood of additional complications.