How can I prepare for and what can I expect from a C-section? Labor & Birth

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baby delivered via c-section
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Whether you have a scheduled cesarean section, or you and your doctor have discussed the possibility of delivery happening in the OR, you want to be mentally prepared. Here's what moms who've been through it and experts say you can do to prep for a C-section.

Here's a Play-by-Play of the Procedure

"There are many different reasons your physician may recommend you have a cesarean section: the baby is breech, the mother has been diagnosed with placenta previa or has a history of a prior C-section, or there's failure to dilate or a concern for the well-being of the baby. Your doctor will thoroughly discuss the C-section with you and ask you to sign papers that you agree to the procedure. They will also ask you to consent for a blood transfusion in the event of an emergency. You will then...

"There are many different reasons your physician may recommend you have a cesarean section: the baby is breech, the mother has been diagnosed with placenta previa or has a history of a prior C-section, or there's failure to dilate or a concern for the well-being of the baby. Your doctor will thoroughly discuss the C-section with you and ask you to sign papers that you agree to the procedure. They will also ask you to consent for a blood transfusion in the event of an emergency. You will then go to the operating room. Anesthesia will be given and tested to make sure it is working. The most common incision for a C-section is transverse (a bikini cut), although sometimes an up and down incision is needed. You will be cleaned with a special solution, and a catheter will be placed in your bladder to drain the urine and protect the bladder. You may feel pressure, especially when the baby is coming out, but you should not feel anything sharp.

 

"Many hospitals have a pediatrician or neonatologist present to examine the baby immediately after birth. The surgery takes about an hour, though the baby is out after only a few minutes. Some hospitals send the baby to the nursery to get weighed and measured while the surgery is being completed.

 

"The day after the C-section, the catheter and the IV are usually removed and you are encouraged to walk around. You will be given pain medication to take by mouth, and you will be allowed to eat normally. The usual hospital stay after a C-section is three days. You will be given pain medication to go home with and your doctor will want to see you in two weeks. Complete recovery usually takes six to eight weeks." -- Karen Deighan, MD, FACOG, associate professor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loyola University Health System

Consider Post-Op Wardrobe Choices

"Bring a comfortable pair of pants to leave the hospital -- or a loose dress -- since you won't be able to wear anything that rubs over the incision. And as soon as you can: Walk. It will help with recovery not to stay in one position for too long."

Practice Self-Compassion & Patience

"It is major abdominal surgery, and you need time to let your body heal. It's frustrating when you want to get up and do things around the house and for the baby, but you are in pain and can't move or lift much. Definitely get up and walk as much as possible to help get rid of gas and speed up the recovery process. Patience is a virtue with C-section recovery. As far as preparing for it, mine was scheduled because my daughter was breech. You can do your makeup, nails, hair, and relax. It...

"It is major abdominal surgery, and you need time to let your body heal. It's frustrating when you want to get up and do things around the house and for the baby, but you are in pain and can't move or lift much. Definitely get up and walk as much as possible to help get rid of gas and speed up the recovery process. Patience is a virtue with C-section recovery. As far as preparing for it, mine was scheduled because my daughter was breech. You can do your makeup, nails, hair, and relax. It happens so, so fast -- the actual procedure -- you don't have time to even think about it. So just relax, meditate, and think positive thoughts!"

Take It Slow

"If you're breastfeeding, you may not have milk right away -- it may take some time. Even if you do not feel the pain (as you will be given painkillers), do not push yourself to walk too much too soon. Take it slow. Put on a soft abdominal binder and wear it all the time for three to four weeks. Do not climb stairs for a couple of weeks. Sleep on your back for the first two weeks. I was sleeping with the binder."

Consider a Stool Softener

"Stay calm, educated, and don't be scared to ask your doctor questions. Also, you should make sure to ask for stool softener afterwards, as the pain meds can constipate you, and you don't want to irritate your stitches."

Plan to Ask for Help Afterward

"Expect to be sore for about two weeks. You're unable to do any lifting, so you need a good support system around you, because you are unable to do much on your own."

Don't Be a Hero

"Truthfully, you really can't prepare. I would just say try to calm yourself down mentally. I was a wreck before my C-section. Give yourself time to heal and follow the doctor's orders on when to take your pain medication. Don't be a hero. The medication is there for a reason. You're already going to be exhausted while trying to take care of your new baby; don't try to suffer through pain along with it."

If Something Doesn't Feel Right, Speak Up

"People react differently under the anesthesia while having the C-section. If something doesn't feel right, speak up. The anesthesiologist can adjust it accordingly. I felt really light-headed and dizzy, and they were able to adjust the medicine, so that feeling went away almost immediately. Also, I was shaking uncontrollably because my body became so cold, and they gave me more warm blankets."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.