While a Caesarean delivery appears less painful and less demanding, it has some important adverse effects. We have described them below:
A C-section is a major surgery involving a surgical cut (wound) and a suture to close the wound. In all likelihood, you will feel pain in your wound for the first few days and discomfort in your tummy for at least the first seven days after the operation, while your body recovers. This may affect your daily activities. In some women, abdominal discomfort may last for a few months.
Infection can occur in three locations: a) the surgical wound, b) the uterus and c) the urinary tract.
An infected surgical wound can become red, may pain, or discharge a liquid, or at times, may separate causing intense pain and discomfort, especially in the case of a pregnant woman with diabetes or who is overweight. Infection in the uterus can lead to bleeding, smelly discharge, or a fever after delivery. Infection in the urinary tract may occur due to the thin tube called urinary ‘catheter’ inserted during the C-section and left for at least 12 hours after the surgery. This can cause lower abdominal or groin pain, high temperature and chills. However, it is uncommon to get this infection if you deliver in any major hospital with standard precautions taken by doctors.
C-section leads to MORE blood loss than a straightforward delivery, although one may perceive the opposite. This is because, it is a major surgery. Bleeding will mainly occur during the surgery so it will be controlled by the attending doctor and the medical team. Rarely, a blood transfusion may be needed in case of heavy bleeding.
- Blood clots
Any surgery can cause blood clots. These are normally removed but at times they may lodge in certain places such as your lungs, which can be life threatening. You may experience cough with shortness of breath, or pain and swelling in your calf, so call your doctor if you notice these things after your C-section. In any case, post-surgery, the doctor will give you drugs to increase blood flow (and lessen the chance of clot formation) and elastic stockings to improve the circulation. It is also important to move about as much as possible, after the C-section to increase blood flow in the limbs.
As you heal after undergoing a major surgery, bands of soft tissue may glue the abdominal organs to each other or to the inner wall of the tummy. These are called adhesions. These are uncommon and may not cause symptoms but in severe cases, they can cause problems with bowel movements or in fertility if they impinge on neighboring organs (e.g. such as the intestine in case of bowel obstruction).
- Effect of anesthesia
You may experience a severe headache, or rarely a nerve damage (lasting for a few days or weeks).
- Surgical injury
Although rare, injuries to the bladder or bowel may occur.
- Risks to the baby
These are minor such as temporary fast breathing during the first few days after birth (in some babies) or an accidental cut to the baby’s skin during the surgery, which usually heals without causing any harm.
- Risk in future pregnancies
There is a likely risk of low-lying placenta or placenta previa, or another condition where the placenta becomes abnormally attached to the wall of the uterus (placenta accreta) This can lead to significant blood loss during childbirth and a need for blood transfusion. There is a rare possibility of the uterus tearing open along the surgical scar line from a prior C-section (uterine rupture) if the woman attempts a vaginal birth the next time. This is rare as in most cases, the next delivery would have to be done through a C-section.