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The Caesarean operation

The Caesarean operation


The actual operation will commence once all the preparations have been carried out, the anaesthetic is working effectively and the partner or support person is seated beside the woman.

There will often be many people in the room looking rather busy with their individual tasks. The surgeon may give you a step by step commentary on what they are doing as the operation progresses or if you prefer, you could ask them not to do this and engage in some conversation with your partner, to take your mind off what is happening. A few women choose to listen to music via a Walkman while things are going on or wear earplugs if they do not want to hear anything at all. These types of requests are very individual and can be included in your Caesarean birth plan.

From the authors:

As you read the following information you may at times find yourself feeling tense or apprehensive. Remember to stop every now and then, relax your body and take a deep breath in and out. We realise this class can be difficult to read and at times be overwhelming. The objective is to explain the procedures of the operation to help you prepare for a Caesarean if required. If you find it disturbs you, we suggest you stop, skip sections or return to it at another time when you feel ready to read it.

People in the operating room

Sensations for the woman

Types of Caesarean incisions

The actual operation

People in the operating room.

Once the actual operation commences, there will be many people in the operating room.

These can include:

  • Firstly the woman (hopefully!)
  • The partner or support person.
  • The anaesthetist who administers and oversees the anaesthetic.
  • The surgeon (either your private obstetrician or the hospital obstetrician or a senior obstetric registrar) who will perform the operation.
  • An assistant for the surgeon, usually another more junior doctor such as a resident or a registrar, training in obstetrics.
  • An assistant for the anaesthetist, usually a more junior doctor such as a resident or registrar, training in anaesthesia.
  • The 'scrub' nurse, this person is 'scrubbed up' and wears sterile clothes, like the surgeon and their assisting doctor. The scrub nurse will set up all the surgical equipment and pass the instruments to the surgeon.
  • A scouting assistant, usually a nursing aide. This person is not 'scrubbed up' and is therefore able to 'go for' anything that is needed, to answer or make phone calls in response to pagers for the people who are 'scrubbed up' for the operation. Every theatre has a phone as a means of communication into and out of the operating theatre. Additional back up staff can be requested by this means, if required. The scouting assistant will often check on the woman and the partner to see how they are going.
  • An anaesthetic nurse who will be attaching monitors and looking after you with the anaesthetist.
  • The midwife who will receive the baby from the surgeon soon after the birth. This person is usually 'scrubbed up' and dressed in sterile clothes so that they do not 'contaminate' the surgeon when the baby is passed over to them. The midwife from the delivery suite who looked after the woman during the labour may do this, if the Caesarean was decided upon after the labour started.
  • The paediatric resident or registrar or specialist who will receive the baby from the 'scrubbed midwife and attend to the baby's health needs soon after the birth.
  • Possibly a midwifery or medical student who is in training, present for observation purposes.

If you are having twins or more, there may be 3 to 4 extra personnel added to the above. You may wish to read twins or more-giving birth.

Sensations for the woman.

If the woman is having an epidural or a spinal anaesthetic, then she will be awake, hear noises and feel sensations but should experience no pain. Women who experience a Caesarean with an epidural (or spinal) often talk about their body feeling like it is a warm, heavy, 'dead' weight, from the waist down.

Many women say they can feel movement and unusual 'rummaging' sensations in their belly as the baby is being manoeuvred for the birth and some liken the incision to someone 'drawing' on their skin, but that it was not painful.

Rarely, the woman will feel that she is not tolerating these sensations or that there is some pain. In this situation it is possible for the anaesthetist to give a general anaesthetic very quickly, or more medications down the epidural catheter, if needed. It is important to know that this is possible as it can allow the woman to feel some control over the situation.

NOTE: The partner or support person would usually be asked to leave the operating theatre if the woman was given a general anaesthetic.

Be aware that many of the sensations you feel will be momentary and will usually pass within a few seconds. If would like to try and stay awake to see your baby being born, then knowing this may help you to tolerate short-term discomfort.

If the woman is having a general anaesthetic then she will be made to sleep. The next thing she should be aware of is being in the Recovery room, without recalling anything to do with the operation. A general anaesthetic is only used in special circumstances because of the increased side effects and possible complications for the woman and the baby. You may wish to read general anaesthetic for Caesarean birth.


Last revised: Friday, 7 December 2012

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.

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