5 Things You Might Feel During a Cesarean

Cesarean section being performed

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A common question when you are facing the possibility of cesarean birth is: What will I feel during a cesarean section?

During any type of cesarean section (c-section) where you have regional anesthesia like epidural anesthesia, you will still feel some sensations during the birth. You should never feel pain. Though it may come as a surprise to many mothers that during the actual birth most women report feeling something. Here are the sensations you may feel.


Many women will feel a tugging sensation. This comes from the movements of the physicians in removing the baby or manipulating your organs. Most women report feeling the most tugging during the actual birth of the baby. Typically, many doctors will warn you just before you feel this so you won't be frightened. You may be advised to do relaxation or breathing during this short, but intense portion of your surgical birth.


While you may have adequate coverage from your anesthesia, you may still feel movement. This is not the same as pain, though may be frightening.

If you're experiencing anything uncomfortable, painful, or scary, be sure to tell the anesthesiologist how you're feeling.

Shortness of Breath

You may feel a significant amount of pressure, particularly at the moment that the doctor is pressing over the top of your uterus to deliver the baby. This is likely the most uncomfortable part of the delivery, however, it only lasts a few seconds. It feels as if someone is lying on top of your abdomen. For some mothers, it's a fleeting feeling but others experience it nearly the entire surgery.


You might think I've gone a bit crazy to mention numbness here, but it's worth calling out separately. Sometimes, you will have no pain sensation anywhere, but still be able to tell that someone is touching you.

Much like having your mouth numbed for dental work. You can feel the dentist working but it doesn't hurt. Sometimes you will have spots that are completely numb, where you can't feel anything. This is not a cause for panic as it is not indicative of nerve damage.


Pain is certainly not what you should be feeling. It is unlikely that you will feel any pain at the surgical site. Your doctor will test and retest until they are sure that you are comfortable. Rarely, you will have an area that is difficult to numb, often called a window or a hot spot, and more often noted with epidural anesthesia compared to spinal anesthesia. 

Be sure to let your anesthesiologist and doctor know what you are feeling so that they can advise you whether or not it is normal to have the sensations you are having during your cesarean section. You may have more options for pain medication, including IV medication or general anesthesia. What is used will depend on your preferences, the practitioner preferences, and at what point in the surgery that it occurs.

These feelings occur during scheduled and unplanned c-sections. If you have an emergency cesarean, you will have these sensations unless you have general anesthesia. Even mothers with a spinal can feel these sensations. Be sure to discuss pain relief options for a cesarean in your birth plan.

A Word From Verywell

Remember that everything that you learned in childbirth class about relaxation and mental awareness can be beneficial, even during a surgical birth. Your medical team will be taking care of the physical pain. Having your partner and/or doula help you with the anxiety and fear can be very helpful.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Medications for Pain Relief During Delivery. American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG).

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.