There are many reasons why expecting mothers have c-sections but, sadly, many are not informed about the process until they are getting wheeled into the operating room. With April being Cesarean Awareness Month, I thought it was apropos to share what you need to know about c-sections so you can be aware of what’s involved and put your worries to rest.
What is a c-section?
C-section is short for cesarean section, which is a process by which a baby is delivered through the mother’s abdomen. Because the abdomen has to be cut open, this is considered a serious surgery. As for a little history lesson, despite what pop history tells us, Cesarean sections were not named after the emperor Julius Caesar, but instead derived from the Latin word caesus meaning “to cut.”
Why do c-sections happen?
While I cannot give medical explanations, the most common reason why a c-section is performed is because doctors has determined that it may be the safest option for a mother and her baby. In other situations, emergency c-sections happen due to a number of things that may occur during a natural birthing process (baby’s heart rate drops, failure to progress, etc.).
There are also some mothers who choose to plan their child’s birth and opt to have a c-section even without medical reasons.
What You Need to Know about C-Sections
The room and area your baby will be delivered in is set up for surgery.
This is important to understand and accept ahead of time, especially if you had certain birth plans that include a more home-like environment. Because c-sections are considered a major surgery, the room must be sterile and prepped as such. This means there will be bright lights, large equipment, trays with a variety of tools the doctor and nurses will need, and there will be a big sheet blocking your view of the surgery. This doesn’t need to be the case though, especially if your c-section is planned. Mothers can request a “gentle c-section” which can include such accommodations as dimmed OR lights, music playing, and a clear drape so you can see when the baby is delivered.
You will feel part of the delivery.
In terms of pain, most mothers who deliver via c-section have regional anesthesia (such as an epidural or spinal block) so they do not feel any pain. However, what they do feel is the tugging on their body once the incision has been made and the baby is being delivered.
There may be feelings of detachment.
Depending on how your doctor (and the hospital where you have your baby) handles c-sections, you may not get the bonding experience you hope for. You can always make a specific request in your birth plan under a “If I have a c-section” section that would require skin-to-skin with the mom during the c-section and then with the dad while mom is getting postpartum care. You can also ask that all non-essential procedures be delayed just as they would be during a vaginal delivery. Lastly, you can hire a birth photographer to capture every moment you may have missed before, during and after your surgery!
C-section recovery is said to be much harder than natural delivery.
A c-section is major surgery. And due to its nature, a lot of moms agree that the level of pain and ability to move much is hindered because of having a c-section. You doctor may offer you pain medication and you may be put on restricted movements for a few weeks. This can make is somewhat more difficult to care for yourself and your baby in the first few weeks after birth. However, there are things you can do to minimize your discomfort. If your c-section is planned, ask your provider to follow the ERAS (enhanced recovery after surgery) protocol. Benefits of the ERAS protocol include shorter hospital stay, decreased postoperative pain and need for analgesia, more rapid return of bowel function, decreased complication and readmission rates, and increased patient satisfaction.
You may experience a delay in your milk coming in.
There’s a natural process that happens with childbirth when it comes to getting your milk to breastfeed your baby. C-sections often interrupt this process but it doesn’t mean you won’t ever get your milk. There’s just the chance that it may be delayed a day or two. Some moms self-express or pump to get the process started after having a c-section.
Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the possibility of having a c-section.
The best way to do this is to research and learn all you can about c-sections. It’s also wise to speak with your primary doctor (and nurses) and their protocol in the event a c-section is necessary. Be well informed, know your options, and be ready to advocate for yourself. Having a birth plan with clear instructions can also help put your mind at ease.
Having a c-section isn’t always part of an expecting mother’s plans, and that’s okay. Learning what you need to know about c-sections can help you be less stressed and instead be more confident about the labor, delivery, and postpartum care of you and your baby. What are some other things you’d add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!