Things They Don’t Tell You About C-Sections
If you’re like most pregnant women, you don’t pay too much attention to the information about Caesarean sections in the books you read or videos you watch. You just don’t expect it will happen to you. But current statistics suggest that nearly one in three women will have this surgery to deliver their babies. So here are a few things you should know:
1. Some reasons for having a surgical birth are clear-cut (for example, a baby in a transverse position who can’t be moved with external version), but most are a judgment call. If your doctor is suggesting scheduling a C-section while you are pregnant, or recommends one while you are in labour, it’s reasonable to ask about alternatives (“could we wait for another hour? Is there something we could try to get the labour moving?”) or even to ask for a second opinion.
2. Most c-sections today are done with an epidural anaesthetic. That means you can be awake and see your baby as soon as he’s born. You shouldn’t feel any pain but will feel pressure and may feel nauseated as the doctors pull the baby out. In some cases, the surgery is done under a general anaesthetic (usually when it is most urgent to get the baby born quickly).
3. Your partner will usually be asked to stay out of the room while the epidural is given, but can usually join you to provide support while the surgery is done.
4. You will have a curtain or drape right across your chest area, so you won’t be able to see the actual surgery. Your partner may be able to see, if he or she wants to. The doctor will generally lift the baby up for you to get a good look once he or she is born.
5. While the birth of the baby is fairly quick, it will take much longer to stitch you up. Fortunately, you’ll usually have the baby nearby to distract you!
6. If you want to and your baby is healthy, you may be able to get someone to help you breastfeed the baby right away, even while you are still being stitched up. That can help get nursing off to a good start and can be very encouraging when you are feeling overwhelmed by everything you’ve just been through!
7. After the baby is born, you may find you are shaking as though you are cold (even if you’re not). This can be a reaction to the epidural and the other medications given to you, and usually passes within an hour or so.
8. Mothers who have had a C-section are more likely to have difficulties with breastfeeding, so seek out extra help right from the beginning. You may need to have additional pillows to help you get into a comfortable position and protect your incision. Hand-expressing after feedings can help build up a good milk supply. Because you were given antibiotics during the surgery, you are at a higher risk of developing thrush, so be aware of the signs and watch for problems.
9. While you won’t feel like it, getting up and walking around as soon as possible after the surgery will help you heal.
10. You will hurt. A C-section is major abdominal surgery. Good pain relief will help you recover and make it easier to look after your baby. If the medication is not working well for you or you are having undesirable side effects (such as nausea), speak to the nurse or doctor about trying a different drug.
11. You might experience one of several emotional reactions. Some women are quite relieved and happy to have had a C-section. Some women are disappointed but recognize that the surgery was necessary. And still others feel very disappointed about not having the birth they had hoped for and may question whether the C-section was really the best choice. If you find you are very sad about your birth experience, don’t hesitate to seek out counselling and support as you work through these emotions.