What Happens To Your Body During A C-Section  

Laura Allan
30.2k views 13 items

Bizarre things happen when you're pregnant, but even stranger things happen to your body when you give birth. While C-sections have become a fairly routine way of having a baby, it doesn't make them any less fascinating or horrifying. What a C-section does to your body is no mere incision — it involves genuinely taking out organs to get to your baby, then putting them back. You won't even see what's happening as bones break and intestines are pulled out of your body. 

Don't worry, survival rates for C-sections are fairly high and the procedure has been around since some of the older, historical beliefs about pregnancy. That said, it can be very hard on your body. Recovery from C-sections takes weeks, and you'll likely walk away with an intense scar. If you're still wondering how a Cesarean section works, be warned: it's pretty gnarly. 

Your Baby Will Be Out Of You In Around 10 Minutes
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Photo:  Focus Clinic/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

So, how fast are the doctors going to do this? As far as surgeries go, this one is shockingly quick. The doctors have this down to a straightforward and well-timed routine, so without complication, it’ll be over in a fraction of the time of a traditional birth. From the doctors getting into your abdomen to extracting the baby, the whole thing takes less that 10 minutes, much shorter than most other major surgeries.

Of course, doctors then take about 30 minutes to stitch you back up, being careful to make sure your uterus is in a good state for recovery. Compared to the hours of painful labor, it’s easy to see why some women opt for this route instead of a traditional birth.

You’ll Get An Injection In Your Spine
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Photo:  Paul Anthony Strewart/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

This routine but invasive medical procedure begins with making you comfortably numb. In order to do this, doctors give you an IV for fluids, then take a needle and insert it into your spine. Then, they inject an epidural (or spinal block), which anesthetizes the lower half of your body.

Doctors usually use a local anesthetic combined with a narcotic for pain relief, which prevents pain impulses sent by your limbs and lower torso from reaching your brain. You’re effectively being paralyzed below the chest, but don’t worry, it’s temporary. Both spinal blocks and epidurals are easily reversible by medical staff. At this point, you’ll be feeling pretty numb, despite the contractions, but you’ll still be wide awake.

Your Limbs May Be Strapped Down
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Photo:  Leonard Erlandson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Even though you’re anesthetizes very effectively for this procedure, doctors will still want to keep you still, for obvious safety reasons. In some cases, the doctor will strap down they arm that has the IV in it, so you will not unconsciously move the arm and cause problems with the needle. You may have limited coordination, and your body may jerk unexpectedly, which can pull the needle out or tear your skin.

In some instances, doctors may strap down more than just your arm. In order to keep you from accidentally moving, your limbs from rolling off the side of the table, or to keep your body from jerking as the baby is removed, a surgeon may restrain all of your limbs with straps. This practice has become exceedingly rare in modern medicine, but it still happens.

You’ll Be Awake Throughout The Procedure
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Photo: Mat Honan/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

One concern some potential mothers have is that they won’t be awake to see their baby come into the world. But, not to worry, you'r completely conscious for C-sections. Epidural and spinal blocks do not render you unconscious, as that part of the brain and nerve signals aren't interfered with.

Your partner can be in the room to talk to you (after they’re garbed in a sterile gown and mask), and you can be awake to hear your baby’s first cries. Still, you won’t feel a thing, and the doctors will help keep you relaxed. One way they do this is by setting up a divider between your upper half and your lower half, so you don’t see what’s going on and panic. Doctors will provide a mirror so you can watch, in some circumstances, but given what’s about to happen to your body, you might be better off with the partition.