Effects of Surgery on Pregnant Woman

Just like any surgical procedure, cesarean birth also has its systemic effects. The responses made by the body must be observed by the health care providers carefully so that they could detect any abnormality and provide prompt intervention.

Body Defenses

  • The primary line of defense that serves as barrier against bacterial invasion is the skin.
  • The moment the skin is incised during surgery, this important line of defense is lost.
  • Since the primary defense has been impaired, strict aseptic technique must be observed.
  • The woman’s risk for infection is greater if cesarean is performed hours after the membranes have ruptured.
  • If the membranes are intact, the physician may prescribe prophylactic antibiotics such as ampicillin or cephalosporin to ensure protection against postsurgical endometritis.

Body Organ Function

  • The body’s normal functions can be disrupted once a body organ is handled, damaged, or repaired in surgery.
  • When there is edema or inflammation, the body organ is impaired further, as well as the surrounding organs.
  • Compresses blood vessels because of edema can affect the distant organs because they can be deprived of blood flow, leading to reduced function in those organs.
  • The uterus may not contract well after surgery because it was handled, and this could lead to postpartum hemorrhage.
  • The bladder will be displaced so that the surgeon can reach the uterus and as a result, the bladder could not sense filling after the procedure.
  • Paralytic ileus or halting of intestinal function may also occur because pressure is also felt by the intestines during surgery.
  • Thrombophlebitis is also possible because of impaired lower extremity blood flow.

Circulatory Function

  • There is always blood loss during surgery, even though vessels that must be cut for surgery are immediately clamped and ligated.
  • Excessive blood loss can lead to hypovolemia and low blood pressure and this could lead to ineffective perfusion of all body tissues.
  • In a vaginal birth, the woman loses 300 to 500 mL of blood, while in a cesarean birth approximately 500 to 1000 mL of blood is lost.
  • The amount of blood lost during cesarean birth is higher because pelvic vessels are congested with blood waiting to supply the placenta.

Stress Response

  • The body has its own way to respond to stressors either physical or psychosocial to preserve the functions of the body.
  • Stress causes the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla.
  • Epinephrine causes an increase in heart rate, bronchial dilation, elevated blood glucose level, peripheral vasoconstriction, and increase in blood pressure.
  • These responses can antagonize anesthetic reaction which is aimed at minimizing body activity.
  • This may also minimize the pregnant woman’s blood supply to the lower extremities.
  • The woman is already prone to thrombophlebitis because of the stasis of blood flow, so these can increase the risk of thrombophlebitis.

Self-Esteem

  • There is always an incisional scar left by surgery afterward.
  • Fortunately, the scar caused by cesarean birth is not overly noticeable because it is made horizontally across the lower abdomen.
  • A woman may still feel a loss of self-esteem if she believes that it marks her as a woman less than others because she was unable to give vaginal birth.

The effects of surgery on a pregnant woman can be a lot to take in, but there are always the health care providers who will guide and teach them every step of the way. The aim of health care providers is to provide safety and comfort for post-surgery patients, especially pregnant women who gave birth via cesarean section, so that their birth experience would be as wonderful as a vaginal birth.

Practice Quiz: Effects of Surgery on Pregnant Woman


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1. A pregnant woman is concerned that she may lose an excessive amount of blood with cesarean surgery. What is the usual amount of blood lost with cesarean birth?

A. 250-350 mL
B. 300-500 mL
C. 500-1000 mL
D. 100-220 mL

2. The physician prescribed a prophylaxis against infection. Which of the following is recommended?

A. Cephalosporins
B. Macrolides
C. Sulfonamides
D. Proton-pump inhibitors (PPI)

3. Pressure is felt by the intestines during surgery, which could lead to:

A. Hyperacidity
B. Paralytic ileus
C. Crohn’s disease
D. Thrombophlebitis

4. What is the best nursing diagnosis for a pregnant woman who lost a lot of blood during cesarean birth?

A. Fear
B. Ineffective coping
C. Ineffective tissue perfusion
D. Activity intolerance

5. Which hormones are released when a woman feels stress?

A. Estrogen and oxytocin
B. Norepinephrine and epinephrine
C. Progesterone and estrogen
D. Estrogen and epinephrine

Answers and Rationale


1. Answer: C. 500-1000 mL

  • C: The average blood loss during cesarean birth is 500-1000 mL.
  • A: 250-350 mL is less than the average blood loss during cesarean birth.
  • B: 300-500 mL is the average blood loss during vaginal birth.
  • D: 100-220 mL is less than the average blood loss during cesarean birth.

2. Answer: A. Cephalosporins

3. Answer: B. Paralytic ileus

  • B: Paralytic ileus results from the pressure felt by the intestines during surgery.
  • A: Hyperacidity is not a complication post-cesarean surgery.
  • C: Crohn’s disease is a condition felt at the gastrointestinal tract but does not result from pressure on the intestines.
  • D: Thrombophlebitis occurs when there is impaired lower extremity blood flow.

4. Answer: C. Ineffective tissue perfusion

  • C: Ineffective tissue perfusion occurs when there is not enough blood for the body organs due to extreme blood loss.
  • A: Fear can be used as the nursing diagnosis before the start of the surgery because the woman may fear the outcome of the surgery.
  • B: Ineffective coping may occur postoperatively when the woman could not perform deep breathing exercises or ambulation due to the pain that she is feeling on the incision site.
  • D: Activity intolerance may occur after surgery due to the postoperative pain that the woman feels at the incision site.

5. Answer: B. Norepinephrine and epinephrine