Preparing fora caesarean delivery

What is a caesarean?

The baby is delivered through an incision made in the mother’s abdominal wall and the wall of the uterus. It's usually performed when it's safer (for mother or baby) than a vaginal delivery.

Why is it done?

Medical reasons include:

  • The baby’s head is too large for the mother’s pelvic opening
  • The baby is breech (lying with its bottom or feet first) or transverse (lying sideways)
  • Dangerous conditions, such as maternal high blood pressure
  • The placenta is blocking the cervix
  • The baby is showing signs of distress
  • Multiple babies
  • The first stage of labour is not progressing
  • There has been an unsuccessful induction of labour

Although the majority of women will know in advance, and thus have time to prepare for a caesarean, an emergency caesarean is always an option if either mother or baby becomes physically distressed during labour. This possibility is worth giving thought to, and perhaps discussing with your doctor as many women find unplanned surgery is easier to cope with if they understand what may happen.

Some women choose to have a caesarean for non-medical reasons – this is a big decision you’ll need to discuss with your obstetrician.

How long is the procedure?

A caesarean section usually takes around 45 minutes, but the baby is delivered within the first 5-10 minutes.

Who is involved?

  • Your obstetrician
  • An assistant surgeon
  • Midwives (during the birth and to provide post-natal care for you and your baby)
  • An anaesthetist will provide either a regional (epidural or spinal), or general anaesthetic
  • A paediatrician (specialist children’s doctor) may be called if there are any concerns over the baby’s safety
  • Radiologist (if x-rays are necessary)
  • Pathologist (if blood tests are necessary)

How do I prepare?

If your caesarean is scheduled for the morning, you may be asked to book into hospital the night before; otherwise, you may book in first thing in the morning on the day of your procedure. You may be required to fast for at least 6 hours before your procedure.

Your obstetrician will have their own specific preparation requirements. These instructions should be strictly followed.

Going to hospital

What to expect when you're admitted for a vaginal or caesarean birth.


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.