Recovery from a C-section takes longer than does recovery from a vaginal birth. And like other types of major surgery, C-sections also carry a higher risk of complications.

Risks to your baby include:

  • Breathing problems. Babies born by C-section are more likely to develop transient tachypnea — a breathing problem marked by abnormally fast breathing during the first few days after birth. C-sections done before 39 weeks of pregnancy or without proof of the baby's lung maturity might increase the risk of other breathing problems, including respiratory distress syndrome — a condition that makes it difficult for the baby to breathe.
  • Surgical injury. Although rare, accidental nicks to the baby's skin can occur during surgery.

Risks to you include:

  • Inflammation and infection of the membrane lining the uterus. This condition — known as endometritis — can cause fever, foul-smelling vaginal discharge and uterine pain.
  • Increased bleeding. You're likely to lose more blood with a C-section than with a vaginal birth. Transfusions are rarely needed, however.
  • Reactions to anesthesia. Adverse reactions to any type of anesthesia are possible. After an epidural or spinal block — common types of anesthesia for C-sections — it's rare, but possible, to experience a severe headache when you're upright in the days after delivery.
  • Blood clots. The risk of developing a blood clot inside a vein — especially in the legs or pelvic organs — is greater after a C-section than after a vaginal delivery. If a blood clot travels to your lungs (pulmonary embolism), the damage can be life-threatening. Your health care team will take steps to prevent blood clots. You can help, too, by walking frequently soon after surgery.
  • Wound infection. An infection at or around the incision site is possible.
  • Surgical injury. Although rare, surgical injuries to nearby organs — such as the bladder — can occur during a C-section. If this happens, additional surgery might be needed.
  • Increased risks during future pregnancies. After a C-section, you face a higher risk of potentially serious complications in a subsequent pregnancy — including bleeding and problems with the placenta — than you would after a vaginal delivery. The risk of uterine rupture is also higher. With uterine rupture, the uterus tears open along the scar line from the prior C-section. Uterine rupture is a life-threatening emergency.
Jun. 12, 2012