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Preparing for a C-Section? Here’s What You Need to Know

Preparing for a C-Section? Here’s What You Need to Know

Just about every pregnant woman worries about how she will deliver her baby, and for good reason. The process of labor is unpredictable and can be painful, but most women prefer to experience it naturally rather than having a C-section. What is a cesarean section? Why do some doctors recommend one? When should you consider opting for this method of delivery? This article answers those questions and more as we discuss the ins and outs of delivering by C-section.

When is a C-section necessary?

There are a few reasons why a cesarean section might be necessary during labor. If the baby is in breech position (feet first), the doctor may recommend a C-section. Other reasons for a C-section include problems with the placenta, an umbilical cord that’s wrapped around the baby’s neck, and fetal distress. If the baby is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvic opening, a C-section will also be necessary.

Is a C-section still considered giving birth?

Some women feel that a cesarean section is not giving birth at all, but is instead a surgical procedure. In fact, some women feel that a C-section is a less painful and less stressful experience than labor. Some women choose to have a C-section for personal reasons, such as the fear of pain or the fear of giving birth. Others may opt for a C-section because their doctor recommends it.

The truth is that a C-section is just as valid a birth experience as a vaginal birth, and no matter which method you bring your baby into the world, you are still a rock star mom.

Just as some moms who give birth vaginally will need intervention through episiotomy, forceps delivery, or a ventouse, others will need intervention through C-section. Whether this is for physical, mental or emotional health reasons should not matter. Whatever needs done to bring the baby into the world safely should be lauded.

What risks and side effects should I be aware of after having a C-section?

While there are some risks and side effects that may impact your daily life, most women do not experience them. The main risk is losing too much blood during the operation. Side effects can also include infection, diarrhea and constipation, vomiting, nausea, fever, and pain in the abdomen.

Preparing for a C-Section:

Pre-Op Preparations

If your C-section is planned in advance, you’ll have a whole set of instructions to follow leading up to the operation. But even if your operation is emergent, most of the following still apply.

  1. No eating solid foods for 8 hours before the surgery. This is to reduce the risk of vomiting or aspiration.
  2. Showering with special soap. This is to kill all bacteria on your skin and to help reduce the chances of infection.
  3. No shaving your stomach or pubic area. Small nicks in the skin can let in bacteria that can let in infection.
  4. You’ll get a Foley catheter. Sorry if you’re squeamish, but part of surgery is having a tube inserted to collect your urine. It’s important not only so you don’t pee on your team, but monitoring your output is imperative to ensure all is well.
  5. You’ll wear compression garments. During and after surgery, you’ll need to wear devices on your legs that squeeze tightly and massage your calves. It’s not always pleasant, but it helps to prevent blood clots and is extremely important.
  6. If something goes awry, or if your pain control is inadequate, you may be put under general anesthesia. In this case, your birthing partner may be asked to leave the room.
Young patient in scrub cap recovering after surgery in post operative care room in modern hospital. Woman with pulse oximeter after operation monitored by doctor in recovery room of orthopedic clinic.

What happens during a C-section?

There are some misconceptions about what actually happens during a cesarean section so if you’re curious or nervous, just keep reading.

When a C-section is needed, the mother typically receives a spinal block to numb her from the waist down. Surgery to remove the baby will take about 20 minutes. Your doctor will make a horizontal cut in your abdomen, below your bikini line. He or she will then lift your uterus out of the way before removing the amniotic fluid with a long needle and using a small clamp to cut the umbilical cord.

Next they will make a small incision in the uterus and then use a tool that separates the placenta from the uterine wall where it attaches. After that, they will take your baby out of the uterus using suction and another instrument.

After your baby is born via C-section, he or she will go into a special area where he will be examined and wiped off by nurses. He may also receive his first bath. Once the baby is stable, he or she will be brought to you for skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding if possible.

Your doctor may give you antibiotics before closing the incision in the uterus. They will then close up the abdominal wall by stitching and tying in several layers. There are many types of stitches that can be used, but most leave tiny marks on the skin. The stitching will usually take about 20 to 30 minutes.

Once you’re in your room, your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored for a few hours. You will need to stay in the recovery room for an hour or so after your C-section and spend 24 to 48 hours or more in the hospital, depending on your condition and whether you have other children at home to care for.

Classic cesarean section in the operating theater.

How will I feel after having a C-section?

A lot of women feel some discomfort even with anesthesia, but you’ll be able to manage it with painkillers. You will probably feel some pulling, tugging and burning sensations as your stitches are being made. Remember to breathe through it. You should be able to go home the same day or overnight after your surgery.

What are some things I could expect right after having a C-section?

You will experience some pain but you can manage this with painkillers. You will not be able to stand up straight for at least a few days, so get plenty of rest. You may also have nausea, vomiting or mild fever that will go away in two days. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics, you will need to take them until they are finished, even if you are feeling better.

How long should I expect to be in the hospital after my C-section?

Most women stay two nights, but many hospitals may allow you to go home after one night if your case was less complicated. The recovery time depends on whether or not you had complications during the pregnancy or birth. Your health care provider will give specific instructions at discharge.

Mother with her baby during c-section.

After Your C-Section

What should I expect after my C-section?

A cesarean section (C-section) is major surgery that requires you to take it easy for at least a few days. You should plan to have help at home so you can rest. After your C-section, you’ll first be taken to the recovery room for close monitoring of both you and your baby before being moved to the postpartum unit (also called Mother/Baby). Your doctor will discuss when it’s safe for you to take a bath after having a C-section.

A cesarean section is major surgery, so there are some limitations on your activity for the next few days while you recover. For example, you shouldn’t drive until the doctor says it’s okay to do so. You’ll also need help at home because you can’t lift anything heavy for the next few days.

How long does it take to recover?

Recovery from a C-section is longer than most women expect. In fact, many people joke that C-sections are more like planned surgeries than deliveries. The entire process usually takes six to 12 weeks, and sometimes even longer..

The first week after a C-section is typically the most painful, but pain medication will help you get through it. You may also need some extra time to heal before you can drive or resume normal activities at home and work.

What precautions should I take after giving birth?

You can’t lift anything heavy for several days because you’ll have stitches or staples in your belly. Your nurse will give you specific instructions about when to start doing things that are more strenuous, like taking a shower.

In general, you should avoid anything that stretches or puts pressure on the incision so it heals as quickly as possible. There’s also a risk of infection if you pick at the skin around the incisions. If you’re going out in public and need to wear a seat belt, use a pillow between your belly and the seat belt.

Is there something I can do to relieve discomfort after having a C-section?

There are some things you can do at home to help relieve discomfort, including taking pain medication when you need it and resting as much as possible. As long as you’re up walking around doing light activities, your doctor may prescribe stool softeners or mild laxatives because the medicine can irritate your stomach.

A woman after giving birth smears ointment on the scar from a caesarean section

Do I need to avoid baths after giving birth?

You can take a shower as soon as you feel like it, but don’t rush it if you’re not feeling strong. The stitches under your belly won’t dissolve on their own, so they should be removed in about 10 days by your doctor or care provider. You can soak in a tub of warm, soapy water as soon as the doctor says it’s okay to do so. For most women, this will be around two weeks after birth.

Is there anything I should NOT eat after having a C-section?

You may have to take certain precautions in terms of what you can eat after your surgery. You should continue to take the antibiotics you were prescribed and avoid foods that would be difficult to digest, such as high-fiber vegetables. Do not eat unpeeled fruits or raw fish because they can contain parasites or bacteria.

Recovery After a C-section

Recovering at Home

Getting back to normal will be difficult if you’re recovering on your own. To ensure that you are able to get the rest you need, enlist the help of friends and family members if possible. If children are younger, make arrangements for baby-sitters or daycares while you focus on recovering.

If you don’t have help, you could hire a home health care agency to provide assistance with your daily needs like cooking and housekeeping. It’s also important that you follow all safety precautions; turn down the stove’s heat after boiling water for example or unplug curling irons or other appliances when not in use.

Social services are another option for help with things like groceries or cleaning.

Closeup of woman belly with a scar from a cesarean section. Woman with baby on her hand

How can I speed up recovery from C-section?

C-section recovery takes a lot longer than you think. For the first 10 days, you’ll have staples in your belly, and your wound will be quite painful. The next days and weeks you’ll be very sore and there will be a lot of pain and discomfort to deal with. Thankfully it will fade over time. You will also have a newborn baby to look after throughout all of this!

Your health care provider will give you specific instructions for exercises that will help you recover faster. It’s important that you start doing them as soon as possible because your muscles will need time to heal and get back into shape. In general, you should avoid strenuous activity for at least six weeks.

When can I start exercising after a C-section?

You shouldn’t engage in any strenuous activity for at least six weeks, but it’s fine to do some light activity. Exercise will help you recover more quickly so ask your doctor when you can start and what kind of exercises he or she recommends.

When will I be able to go back to my normal routine after a C-section?

You should ask your doctor when you can resume your normal activities, but in general it’s recommended that you don’t do anything strenuous for at least six weeks. You’ll probably be able to go back to your regular routine after about four weeks as long as you’re not doing anything that causes pain or discomfort.

When can I drive after having a C-section?

You won’t be able to drive for at least six weeks, and it depends on what kind of car you have and if the seatbelt feels comfortable. Make sure your car is equipped to handle an infant seat before you drive because that will be your main mode of transportation for the first few months.

Closeup of woman belly with a scar from a cesarean section. Woman with baby on her hand

When can I go back to work after having a C-section?

It depends on what kind of job you have and how much time it allows, but most women are ready to return to work after six weeks. You should ask your doctor when you can go back, but it’s generally recommended that you wait at least four weeks before doing anything strenuous or requiring a lot of energy.

When can I resume having sex after having a C-section?

You should ask your doctor when you can resume sexual activity, but it’s usually recommended to wait at least six weeks. Make sure to use birth control until your post-delivery checkup. If you don’t feel ready yet, then talk to your partner and try to figure out what will help you get in the mood or take some time for yourself.

How can I improve my C-section experience?

You and the baby should recover just fine after a C-section. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby will still drink plenty of breast milk even if he or she doesn’t receive colostrum in the first days of life. Your pediatrician can explain how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.

If you have any complications after your C-section, they will be treated swiftly so both you and the baby remain healthy. If you’re concerned about possible complications or want to learn more about how to care for yourself during recovery, contact your doctor with questions before, during, and after delivery.

The majority of people who have a cesarean section experience few complications and are able to recover quickly. If you’re pregnant, it may be helpful to research in advance so that you know what your next steps should look like or if there is anything in particular that would need your attention before the surgery occurs.  

If you still feel unsure about having a C-section, talk to your partner and medical team about any concerns or questions that come up when reading through the information provided here. With help from them, we hope you can make an informed decision on whether or not this procedure is right for you.

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