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Cesarean Section Deliveries

Planned and emergency Cesarean section (C-section) deliveries take place in our state-of-the-art surgery suites in the Labor & Delivery unit, on the second floor of UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest.

Preparing for Your C-Section

If you are scheduling a C-section, plan to check in at Labor & Delivery about two hours before your surgery time. An assigned nurse will accompany you through every step: birth preparation, the procedure, and recovery. A physician and anesthesiologist will discuss the surgery with you and review your medical history.

During a C-Section and Recovery

Expect to be in the delivery room for one to two hours before going to a recovery room in Labor & Delivery. For planned C-sections, we encourage your spouse or support person to be present for delivery and stay with you and your baby during your initial recovery. Your support person will be seated next to you and is allowed to photograph the birth. For unplanned C-sections, the circumstances will determine who is allowed in the delivery room.

You'll be in the recovery room for approximately two to three hours after surgery, where we will monitor your blood pressure, pulse, respirations, and temperature. As long as your baby does not need any special care, your baby and your support person will be with you. We encourage skin-to-skin contact with your baby and are available to help with breastfeeding. Visitation may be limited during this time immediately after surgery because rest is important for your recovery. Once your blood pressure, pulse, respirations, and temperature are normal and you can move well without problems, you will be transferred to the postpartum until.

Postpartum Care

Your postpartum care will be in a quiet environment where specialized nurses care for mothers and new babies. Semi-private and private rooms are available. The average stay after a C-section is three days. If your baby needs specialized care, a Level III NICU is available. (See Newborn and Postpartum Care for more information on your care and visitation policies.)

You will need to have a support person stay with you and your baby for the first 24 hours. Sleeping arrangements will be made to accommodate your support person on the postpartum unit.

C-Section FAQs

What is a C-section?

A C-section is a surgical procedure that is performed when a vaginal birth is not possible or not safe. An incision is made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus, through which the baby is delivered. Emergency C-sections may be performed because of unexpected difficulties during delivery. Planned, or elective, C-sections are scheduled before the mother is expected to go into labor, typically around 39 weeks. For more information, see our Health Library: Cesarean Section Deliveries.

Can I eat anything before surgery?

No, you cannot eat or drink anything for eight hours before your scheduled cesarean section, or as directed by your provider.

What happens the day of surgery?

For a planned C-section, you should arrive two hours early for preparation. This includes monitoring your baby, starting an intravenous line (IV), shaving the top of your pubic hair, and inserting a catheter. You will also be given an antacid to reduce acid reflux.

What should I expect after surgery?

You will be cared for in the recovery room for approximately two to three hours. For the first and possibly the second hour, you may not be able to move your legs. You will slowly regain movement as the anesthesia wears off. Side effects of anesthesia can cause vomiting, itching, tingling (in the legs), and shaking. If these side effects occur, we can treat them with small amounts of medicine through your intravenous line (IV). Also common is bleeding similar to a heavy menstrual period. Our team will examine your uterus for position, contractility, and bleeding to make sure everything is normal. Your catheter remains in your bladder until the next day.

Can I still breastfeed after a C-section?

Yes, and we are here to help you. The most comfortable position after surgery may be on your side. Our lactation consultants will also visit you during your postpartum stay. 

If I have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, can I have an elective C-section?

This is something to discuss with your provider. He or she will review the pros and cons with you and see if it is a viable option.

If I had a C-section with my first child, do I need to have one with my second?

Not necessarily. A VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) may be a safe option for you. Discuss your individual situation with your provider.

Meet Our Maternity Team: Free Tours

More About C-Sections

See our Health Library for more information

Free Online Tutorials

Our online tutorials take about 20 minutes to view and help prepare you for childbirth.

Or learn more about Emmi tutorials.

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