They say having a baby takes a village. This is even more true when you undergo a c-section childbirth. But you can prepare for a c-section by knowing what to expect before, during, and after surgery. We’ve gathered some great tips from medical experts and research to help.
Three Months Before
A c-section is always a possibility. Even if you’re planning on a vaginal delivery. Sometimes, unavoidable circumstances impact your birth plan. So, knowing what to expect for both deliveries is best to help ease your mind.
You’ll need to find a pediatrician or family doctor for your baby. Once they are born, a doctor will visit and examine the child. Then, you’ll bring your newborn in for their first appointment soon after delivery. They will also offer resources on breastfeeding, feeding guidelines, and immunizations.
Pediatricians specialize in the health and illnesses of children from birth through their teenage years. It’s best to find one certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. They’re considered experts in their field and commit to ongoing learning to improve their quality of care.
This is a great time to think about a feeding plan for your baby. Will you plan to breast or bottle feed?
The American Pregnancy Association recommends breastfeeding for most families. It’s because of the health and relational benefits that come with it. But it’s not right for every mom and a woman has her reasons for how she feeds her baby.
Sometimes mothers are unable to breastfeed or can’t produce enough milk. Even a small amount of breast milk benefits babies in the first six months.
Supplementing with formula or strictly a bottle can give your baby the adequate nutrition. Speaking with your doctor or lactation consultant can help you decide what’s best for you and your baby.
Gathering the necessities you’ll need when you take the baby home from the hospital is also a part of planning. For example, the hospital requires a car seat before safely leaving the hospital with your baby. An overnight bag in your car with necessities like clothes and toiletries for the hospital stay is good prep, too.
Finally, it’s a good idea to think about your support person. In the labor and delivery room, you may have someone sit near your head during the c-section.
Rather, it is a partner or loved one, it may be a hard decision when choosing who you’d like most at your side. This person might also help hold your baby in the operating room after delivery.
One Week Before
Your doctor might ask you to stop taking blood thinners such as Coumadin the days before the c-section. This is because they increase your risk of bleeding, making surgery less safe. Other medicines and supplements avoided may include:
- Vitamin E
- Enoxaparin (Lovenox)
It’s best to speak with your doctor before you stop taking any medication.
You’ll also want to remain active the week before your c-section. Many people may feel they need to rest up in bed before surgery, but it’s actually the opposite. Experts recommend up to 45 minutes of low to moderate-intensity exercise in your third trimester.
Staying active during your entire pregnancy may also help with your recovery.
The Day and Night Before
Follow your doctor’s directions about what you can eat and drink the day before your c-section. Typically, it is okay to eat a regular diet the day before your surgery. But you’ll want to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Also, eating small meals that day helps to prevent heartburn.
Once midnight hits, the doctor might restrict consuming foods or drinks. It depends on the facility and time of the scheduled c-section.
Living with diabetes is also a factor. You must speak with your doctor about how to eat and manage your insulin the day and night before your surgery.
Finally, your doctor may ask you to prep your skin the night before your c-section. The steps may be:
- Take a shower.
- Wash your hair with shampoo only.
- Clean your entire body with soap and water.
- Dry off completely.
- Avoid using lotions, deodorants, perfumes, or powders.
- Use cleansing wipes or cleansers from your doctor to clean your belly, hips, and upper legs.
Prep for the Day of Your C-Section
On the morning of your c-section, check the specific instructions from your doctor. You may not need to shower again that day and you’ll only take approved medication.
Clear liquids like water or tea are usually okay until two hours before your c-section. But please avoid alcohol and non-clear beverages like orange juice or coffee creamer. You’ll also bypass solid foods.
You should bring the following with you to the hospital:
- Picture I.D.
- Advanced Directives or Living Will
- List of Medications Currently Taking Including Supplements
- Comfortable and Loose-Fitting Clothing
- Personal Care Items like a Toothbrush
- CPAP/BiPAP Machine (as needed for sleep apnea)
Things to keep safe at home are:
- Valuable Jewelry
When to Arrive at the Hospital
Your doctor will let you know what specific time to arrive. You’ll want to get there around two hours before your scheduled surgery time. Once there, look for Labor and Delivery or Patient Registration, where you’ll check-in.
Then, they’ll take you to your room to meet your nurse. You’ll change into a hospital gown at that point. The nurse may also hook you to heart monitors and start an IV for medicine and fluids.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a warm blanket. It’s a great way to calm your nerves at this stage. Bringing photos of loved ones or your baby’s ultrasound picture can also help.
Waiting for the c-section to start might be one of the hardest parts. Practicing breathing exercises and developing a mental wellness plan may help you stay relaxed during this exciting time. Lean on your birth partner or doula for support.
Next, your doctors will come to your bedside. That’s a great time to express any lingering questions or concerns about your c-section.
An anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will be there to oversee the anesthesia process, also. Anesthesia is either regional or general.
Medications Day of C-Section
There are two types of regional anesthesia: epidural and spinal. An epidural involves injecting medicine into the epidural space surrounding your spinal cord. Epidurals may start relieving your pain in 10-20 minutes.
Spinal anesthesia is also known as a spinal block. The drug gets injected closer to the spinal cord in the subarachnoid space. With this, the entire lower half of your body will feel numb. Spinal blocks provide faster relief and need less medication.
With both, you’re awake during the c-section.
General anesthesia makes you completely unconscious. It’s also faster and often used in emergencies or if the mom cannot receive a regional.
Other medications you may receive include:
- Pain Medication: Medicine to manage pain before, during, and after the procedure.
- Antibiotic: Like other surgeries, c-sections carry a risk for infection. Antibiotics help lower that risk by 60-70%.
- Antacids: Antacids lessen stomach acid to keep the contents from entering the lungs.
- Skin Prep: To lower infection risk, they apply topical povidone-iodine and chlorhexidine to your abdomen and vagina before surgery to clean the area of your incisions.
You will enter the operating room when it’s time for your c-section. A loved one can also join you in the room. But this depends on the facility.
What Happens When the Baby is Born
Baby nurses are on standby in the operating room, ready to care for the baby once delivered. The doctor will hand them your baby for a few moments to ensure it’s healthy and clean.
Once your doctor delivers your placenta, they close the incision in your uterus and belly. You will then move to the recovery room for about two hours. If both are healthy, your baby will join you. The bonding can begin!
As your anesthesia wears off, you may start to feel some discomfort. Your healthcare team will help you manage that pain. You may also have a catheter in your bladder for about eight hours after surgery.
After recovery, you’ll move to your hospital room with your baby. This space is where you’ll stay during your time at the hospital. You’ll discharge home once it’s safe for you and your baby. It may be around 2-4 days.
Your doctor looks for these things to occur before sending you home:
- You are walking on your own
- Using the bathroom without a catheter
- Eating a regular diet
- No vomiting
Recovery at Home After C-Section
A big part of c-section preparation is pain management. It’s normal to have pain once you are home with your baby. The body must heal in the days after surgery. But, the pain should go away with time.
Prescription and non-prescription pain medications are helpful. But you’ll want to check with your doctor before you take any medicine.
Once home, remain mindful of your incision. It may need to stay covered for several days to keep it clean and dry. A sponge bath is only sometimes recommended for the first few hours.
When you shower, let the water run over the incision. You may also wash it gently with mild unscented soap. Do not scrub it.
No tub baths until your doctor checks your incision about six weeks after your c-section.
It’s normal for your incision to be:
- a little red or pink
- Uncomfortable and tender to touch
- Closed with visible sutures or staples
When to Call Your Doctor
Please call your doctor if your incision:
- Has white, yellow, or green drainage
- is painful
- It is very red.
A fever and muscle aches are also signs of infection. When in doubt, call your doctor about how you’re feeling. They’ll ask about your symptoms to ensure you’re healing well.
Activity and Nutrition
As your body heals, a well-balanced, healthy diet is ideal. Drink enough fluids also, so you stay hydrated.
Activity is important. Staying active is essential to your recovery and may prevent complications.
Things to do include:
- Walking several times a day.
- Returning to work when approved by a doctor.
- Not overdoing it. Listen to your body when it tells you you’re doing too much.
- Lift more than 10 pounds for about six weeks after your C-section
- Drive if taking narcotic pain medication
- Have sex or use tampons for six weeks after surgery
Birth plans are a great way to get more involved into the process. As a result, some women can prepare for their c-section successfully. But, sometimes, the unexpected occurs and anything can happen. So, it’s best to prepare for the unexpected and the expected.