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What is an Abdominal Delivery?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The delivery of a baby through an incision in the mother's abdomen is called an abdominal delivery, commonly known as a caesarean delivery. Generally performed when the life of the infant, mother, or both is jeopardized, an abdominal delivery involves a surgical incision in the abdominal wall to facilitate the birthing process. As with any medical procedure, there are risks associated with an abdominal delivery. Pregnant women who may be scheduled for a caesarean delivery, or for whom the procedure may be a possibility, are frequently encouraged to educate themselves about the potential risks and recovery process associated with this type of delivery.

There are a variety of reasons for the utilization of a caesarean delivery. In all cases, proceeding with the vaginal delivery of the baby places the life of the mother, child, or both at risk. If the unborn baby is positioned incorrectly in the birth canal or is above average in size, an abdominal delivery may be necessary to ensure a safe delivery. In the presence of suspected oxygen deprivation of the fetus or if the umbilical cord is positioned in a manner that compromises a safe delivery, a caesarean delivery may be performed. Placental issues, such as placenta previa, or developmental issues, including spina bifida, may also necessitate a caesarean delivery.

If the mother's health is compromised due to the existence of a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or she has an active infection resulting from a sexually transmitted disease (STD), the baby may be delivered through the abdomen to lessen the risk for complications. Women who are pregnant with more than one child may have a caesarean delivery to ease the delivery process. Additionally, if a woman has had a previous abdominal delivery, she may be encouraged to undergo a caesarean delivery due to possible risks associated with a vaginal delivery. The risks associated with a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) are entirely dependent on an individual’s situation and medical history.

The abdominal delivery procedure involves the introduction of a surgical incision in the mother's lower abdominal wall just above the pubic region. The mother is generally given a spinal block, or epidural, and remains awake and alert during the delivery. An incision is administered to open the uterus and allow for the removal of the baby. Once the baby is delivered and the placenta is removed, stitches are used to close the abdominal incision. In most cases, a single, horizontal incision is used to facilitate a caesarean delivery; however, in some cases, more than one incision may be necessary to complete the delivery safely.

An abdominal delivery does carry some risk for complications. The mother may be at an increased risk for blood clots, excessive bleeding, and infection. The use of anesthesia does possess some risk for allergic reaction to the drugs administered and impaired respiration. Women who undergo an abdominal delivery may be placed at an increased risk for future pregnancy complications, including abnormal placenta development and uterine rupture. The risks for a baby delivered abdominally are minimal and may include facial laceration or respiratory difficulty.

Women who have a caesarean section generally remain hospitalized for a few days following the delivery. Frequently encouraged to get up and move around shortly after delivery, the new mother may be observed for any sign of infection or possible complications during the course of her hospital stay. Analgesics may be administered to alleviate any discomfort following delivery. To promote a speedy and complication-free recovery, new mothers are encouraged to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, and adhere to their physician's postoperative instructions.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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