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Medical Negligence
Caesarean Sections

Caesarean Sections

The number of mothers undergoing a caesarean section in the UK is increasing, with around one baby in four delivered in this way. The procedure may be planned or it may be performed by way of a medical emergency: either way, it is a major operation which must be carried out with extreme care, or mother and baby could be left to suffer serious complications.

Why Might A Caesarean Section Be Necessary?

A caesarean section will be performed if a 'normal' vaginal delivery poses a threat to the mother or the baby. The procedure will either be planned before the birth, or it may arise as a medical emergency. Each of these is explored in more detail below:

1. Planned (Elective) Procedure

During your pregnancy, you will be continually monitored so that the health of both you and your unborn baby can be assessed. This may reveal certain issues that cause your doctor or midwife to suggest you will need a caesarean section rather than a vaginal birth. This will be due to one or more medical reasons, such as:-

  • Pregnancy-related blood pressure;
  • There is more than one baby;
  • You have an infection that could transfer to the baby (such as HIV or hepatitis);
  • You have a small birth canal;
  • You have a medical condition which could put you at risk during a vaginal delivery eg. heart disease;
  • The baby is in an unusual position eg. breech;
  • The baby is premature or has not grown properly;
  • Another problem has arisen during the pregnancy eg. the placenta is blocking the womb;
  • You are over 35 years old.

2. Emergency Procedure

Even if you go into labour intending to have a vaginal birth, unforeseen circumstances can mean that a normal delivery puts you and/or your baby at risk. In such cases medical staff may suddenly decide a C-section is necessary to protect mother and baby from harm. Such an event may arise because:-

  • The baby is suffering foetal distress eg. from not receiving enough oxygen;
  • The labour is not progressing quickly enough;
  • An induced labour is not working;
  • There is an excessive amount of bleeding.

How Is A Caesarean Section Performed?

Before a caesarean section is performed, you will be given a regional anaesthetic which numbs the lower half of your body, but allows you to remain awake. This is safer for both you and your baby, and will be administered via an epidural in the spine.

The procedure itself is carried out in an operating theatre, and usually takes around 30-45 minutes. If you wish, a screen can be placed across your upper body so you do not have to watch. The surgical team will then make a horizontal incision across the abdomen just above the pubic bone, allowing access to the womb. Another cut is made to the womb, through which the baby is delivered. After this the placenta soon separates and is removed, and the wounds are closed with dissolvable stitches.

Potential Risks

While it is a common procedure, a caesarean section is nevertheless a major operation that carries a number of complications. These include:

  • Infection;
  • Blood clot;
  • Excessive bleeding;
  • Internal damage, eg. to the bladder or kidneys;
  • Aspiration (whereby you vomit during the procedure, causing food and fluid to enter your lungs);
  • Harm to the baby, eg. nerve damage.

If you or your baby experiences any complications as a result of a caesarean section, it may be that this was caused by medical staff providing a sub-standard level of care. If so, speak to a medical negligence solicitor to discuss your options.

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Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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