The reasons for a cesarean section, or C-section, can vary from a previous surgery making vaginal delivery dangerous, pregnancy complications, a breech baby or the choice of the mother to undergo one. Knowing what to expect before, during and after a cesarean might make you feel more comfortable about the procedure. If you have questions about having a C-section, talk with your doctor.
If you have a scheduled C-section, you will have a specific time to arrive at the hospital. Your doctor might provide you with an antiseptic wash to use on your belly before arriving at the hospital as well as instructions on whether or not you can eat or drink prior to your surgery. When you arrive at the hospital, you will go into your room and begin the preparation for surgery. You might have an IV and catheter inserted and you will have your anesthesia administered. With a planned C-section, the type of anesthesia you receive might be a spinal block, which is when pain medication is inserted into the spinal cord sac, or an epidural, which is when pain medication is inserted near the spinal sac.
After medical staff preps you for surgery, you will enter the operating room. Your spouse or partner will have to wear scrubs and a face mask if he wants to be present during the surgery. Once on the operating table, a drape will go up between your chest and abdomen to protect you during surgery. You might also receive oxygen and have your arms placed out to your sides on a board, to keep you still during the procedure. Your doctor will check to make sure you are numb below the chest before he begins the procedure. An incision is made across your lower abdomen -- first through your muscle wall, and then across the lower portion of your uterus. This is called a transverse incision and is the most common incision. If you need an emergency C-section and time is a factor, an incision might be made from your belly button to your pubic bone to remove the baby faster. Your doctor will carefully remove your baby from your uterus -- you might feel pressure during this part, but you should not feel any pain -- and quickly make sure the baby’s nose and mouth is clear of fluid. Your baby will then go with a nurse who will clean, measure and weigh the baby while your doctor takes care of closing the incision. Depending on your doctor’s preference, you will receive stitches, staples or a mix of both.
After surgery, you will go to a recovery room or the room you will be rooming in for the duration of your stay. You might be groggy from the pain medication and the toll the surgery took on your body. For pain relief, you might receive a pain pump. You should breastfeed as soon as possible if you are able or willing; solicit the help of a nurse or lactation consultant to find a comfortable nursing position. In most cases, you will require a three-day stay in the hospital to ensure you do not have complications. As soon as possible, begin walking to help accelerate your recovery and prevent blood clots and bowel issues.
Home Sweet Home
It can take four to six weeks to recover from a C-section according to the Mayo Clinic. During the recovery period, limit your physical activity if you are in pain. For the first couple of days, avoid walking up stairs, driving and lifting anything heavier than your newborn baby. Ask for help if you need it and listen to your body for how far you should push your physical activity. Do not miss your check-up with your doctor; you will have the stitches or staples removed and have the chance to ask any questions or talk about contraception.