A vaginal childbirth is the goal of mothers and labor and delivery staff. A vaginal delivery is easier to recover from, and less of a risk to the mother. However, a cesarean section, also known as a c-section, is sometimes safest for the mother if a typical delivery is not possible.
Having a c-section can be scary to many moms, even if you’ve had one before. While a lot of information is published about stages of labor and how to tackle labor pain, there isn’t as much on how to prepare for a c-section. These tips will help you cope with some of the unknown fears about the procedure before you reach the labor and delivery room.
1. Prepare for a quick start
If you are in labor, there are several reasons you may need a c-section. Some of the reasons include your cervix not dilating, the baby is too big, the baby is not tolerating labor, or if you have an infection. If a c-section is necessary, be ready to move quickly. Not all c-sections are emergencies after you have been in labor, but even in the event of a non-emergency, it’s important to know that it will happen within the hour when it is decided. Once a c-section is called, the staff works quickly to set the operating room and call in the rest of the staff to prepare for delivery.
2. Remove the Extras
When you have a c-section, you’ll be asked to take off every piece of jewelry (other than a wedding band) before surgery. Better yet, when you are admitted to the labor and delivery department, take your jewelry off. While you are at it, take off your bra, too. This way, you can easily do skin to skin contact with your baby after surgery without having to thread your bra straps through IV bags and other cords.
3. The Operating Room is Cold
Be ready for the temperature to drop from the hallway to the operating room. Before the baby is born, we turn up the temperature, but when you first enter the room, it is cold. We have warm blankets we will give you, and we will try to warm you up as best we can.
4. Support Person, not People
We understand that family is a major part of the healing process after any surgery. If you receive regional anesthesia, an epidural or spinal, you are allowed one person to come back with you to the operating room. We wait until you are numb before the person is allowed in. If for some reason you have to go to sleep, we do not allow anyone in the operating room, much like regular surgery. Don’t worry, though; right after surgery, we want your family to come to your room to help you recover and enjoy you in your new role as a mother.
5. It’s Safer Awake
The fear of being awake during a c-section is common. We keep you awake because it is safer awake than asleep. The fear of being awake is no reason to be put to sleep. We will help you calm yourself without drugs because they are potentially harmful to the pregnancy. You won’t feel groggy during or after surgery with regional anesthesia like you would with general anesthesia. Most importantly, we want you and your baby to be safe.
6. You will Feel Pressure
When you have a spinal or an epidural before your surgery, you will feel pressure, but no pain. The doctor will test your skin before cutting an incision. The pressure on your chest and abdomen may be intense right before your baby is born. We will coach you to take some deep breaths and prepare you for the moment, but we promise, it’s worth it.
7. Skin to Skin is Possible
We encourage skin to skin contact (aka kangaroo care) with your baby to establish early bonding and initiate breast feeding, if that is your choice, as soon as we get you into the recovery room. Remember, by choosing regional (epidural or spinal) versus general anesthesia, you will not feel unsafe with your baby.
8. There will be a Longer Recovery
After your c-section, you will have some discomfort. However, it is manageable with remedies such as rest and medication. Unlike your friend who may feel normal two weeks after her vaginal delivery, you may still be hurting. This is normal because a c-section isn’t just a delivery, it’s major abdominal surgery. Treat it like that, and you will recover.
Having a c-section is another way to have a baby, and we try to make it as close as possible to a typical delivery. These tips were provided to help you understand that c-sections are considered major abdominal surgery, and we treat them as such. The medical staff understands that you are nervous and will be there with you all the way to answer any questions and hold your hand.
Janine Kelbach is an RN who has worked in labor and delivery since 2006. She lives in Willoughby with her two sons, husband, and great dane.