Thursday, December 4, 2008

Three Things to Know About Emergency C-Sections

One thing I've noticed more since having a c-section is, not only how many other women have them, but just how many of them are classified as "emergency c-sections". I was reminded of this just last week as I spoke with a friend and she kind of laughed and said, "although, I don't really think my c-section was truly an emergency..." I thought more about that and realized that, realistically, all unplanned c-sections seem to get labeled as emergencies. Here are three different scenarios, all of which get the same label: emergency c-section.

  1. A woman has been in labor too long or has pushed for too long and the doctor decides that it is time to deliver the baby by c-section. There is not necessarily anything "wrong" in this situation. It's just safer after a period of time to deliver surgically. In these cases, they usually get everything prepped and can wait a bit for the anesthesiologist.
  2. It is determined that it is unsafe for the baby to be delivered vaginally but the woman is not in any sort of hard labor. Usually there is some risk to the health of the baby and/or mother in these situations. It is imperative that the c-section be performed. Nonetheless, in these cases it is not uncommon for the medical team to wait for the arrival of a spouse or family member. Time is a factor, but it's not a life or death situation to postpone the c-section for a half-hour or so.
  3. Things go horribly wrong and the baby has to be removed NOW otherwise risking severe injury or death to mother or baby. In these cases, there is no wait for the anesthesiologist; these are the cases that cause "typical" laboring mothers to have to wait for their epidurals. They are high priority. Prep often happens in transit to the OR and the doctors wait for no one. These c-sections happen at breakneck speed.
I outline these differences not to "rank" how bad one's experience is versus another. Quite frankly, I *hate* birth story competitions. I just think it's important to know what a wide array of situations the term "emergency c-section" can encompass. I know when I hear that term I tend to think that something went suddenly and devastatingly wrong. Happily, that is not always the case.


Kris said...

My c-section was yet a fourth scenario. Fully dilated, contractions every 3-4 minutes, but baby was breech. Baby born by c-section 1.5 hours after arrival at hospital. We waited for the OB to arrive, then prepped for the c-section after he confirmed position by portable u/s.

This was a 30 weeker, so the NICU and neonatologist also needed to prep for the baby.

JessieLeigh said...

Kris- Thanks for sharing your story! There are innumerable different c-section scenarios, that's for sure... I also had a breech situation (footling) and that usually leads to a c-s. How old is your former 30-weeker now?