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Elective caesarean section

4-minute read

What is an elective caesarean section?

A caesarean section is a procedure to deliver a baby by a surgical operation. Elective means that it is planned before you go into labour.

Why do I need a caesarean section?

The following are the more common reasons why a caesarean section may be recommended.

  • Your baby is positioned in a way other than head down.
  • Your baby is not growing properly or is distressed.
  • The placenta is lying in front of your baby and either completely or partly over your cervix, preventing a vaginal birth.
  • You have had a caesarean section before.
  • You have a multiple pregnancy.
  • You have a particular complication of pregnancy.
  • The placenta has become too firmly attached to your uterus (womb) so it will not separate naturally.
  • You have medical problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

In your case a caesarean section is the safest method of delivery for both you and your baby.

Are there any alternatives to a caesarean section?

The alternatives are normal labour or induced labour (where medication is used to get labour started) followed by a vaginal delivery.

What does the operation involve?

Almost all caesarean sections are performed under regional anaesthesia (either a spinal or epidural anaesthetic). This means you will be awake so you can see your baby.

The operation usually takes less than an hour.

Your obstetrician will make a low horizontal cut on your ‘bikini’ line. They will separate the muscles of your abdominal wall and open your uterus (womb). Your obstetrician will deliver your baby through the cut.

A caesarean section.

After the delivery, they will repair your womb and abdomen.

A midwife will be with you throughout the operation and a paediatrician may also attend to your baby when it is born.

If the video doesn't load, try this Elective Caesarean Secion.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • developing a hernia in the scar
  • venous thromboembolism
  • chest infection

Specific complications of this operation

  • infection in your womb
  • bladder damage
  • heavy bleeding
  • small scratch on your baby’s skin
  • breathing difficulties for your baby where your baby takes longer than normal to clear the fluid from their lungs
  • effect on future fertility or pregnancy

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin

How soon will I recover?

You will be able to go home when the healthcare team feels you are medically fit enough, which is usually after 1 to 3 days.

Your obstetrician and the healthcare team will tell you when you can return to normal activities.

Bleeding usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.

Do not lift anything heavy or do strenuous exercise for 6 weeks. Do not push, pull or carry anything heavier than your baby during this time.

Most women take at least 3 months to recover from the operation.


A caesarean section is a common operation and is usually a safe method of delivery for you and your baby.


The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright ©

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Last reviewed: September 2023

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