What You Need to Know About Having a C-Section

I was in another country when I gave birth 11 years ago to my first child. To be honest, we were unprepared for my delivery. I was overconfident and I really thought that I would have no trouble giving birth. It turned out to be anything but easy. After hours of complications I was told I had to have an emergency C-section. Everything turned out fine and I gave birth to a healthy boy, but I wish I had been more prepared for the surgery. Here’s what you should know if you are having a scheduled (or unscheduled) C-section:

What is a C-section?

A C-section (cesarean section), is the surgical delivery of a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. It’s typically only recommended in medically necessary cases, including in some high-risk pregnancies and when the baby is in the breech position and can’t be flipped around before labor begins. However, some women do elect to have C-sections instead of vaginal births for various reasons.

Pain management

There are many possibilities for pain control following surgery. Options immediately following surgery include medications delivered through an epidural catheter or spinal, and IV medications delivered as scheduled doses or continuously through a pump. If you’re in labor and have already had an epidural, the surgeon will check and make sure it’s working properly. In an emergency, a surgeon might recommend general anesthesia, but most of the time local anesthesia (where you’re awake and have the use of your upper body) is enough. Note: If you have a spinal block, you may spend some time involuntarily vibrating all over (though some find it’s just their legs that spasm). It subsides quickly, as the spinal usually wears off after a few hours.

Prepping for surgery in the hospital

To prepare you for a c-section, a nurse will first give you an IV to provide fluid and medication, and possibly shave the area where the surgeon will make either a vertical or transverse incision, right above your pubic hair line. A catheter will likely be placed in your bladder to collect urine. You will then be given anesthesia, most commonly in the form of an epidural or a spinal block.

Prepping your body

A C-section is major surgery so preparing your body is important. You may not be able to feel the pain of a normal childbirth but the stress level on your body may be more than what you expect it to be. Regular exercise, staying within a healthy weight and eating nutritious meals boost the odds of a smooth operation and fast recovery from a C-section. Being fit for this birthing method helps your body get back easily to its normal functioning capacity.

Your scar from the incision

The incision is usually made two finger-widths above the pubic bone. It runs upward toward your bellybutton and is typically about 10 centimeters long. Sometimes a larger incision is necessary in cases where delivery may be difficult, such as in the case of twins or large babies. Want to help it fade faster? Eskridge suggests trying scar-fading ointments—but only after you’ve let it heal for six weeks (applying anything sooner may cause an infection).

Post-op

In the first 24 hours, it is common to feel pain at the site of the incision. Many women also feel post-birth cramps as the uterus shrinks. These sensations feel similar to menstrual cramps, but may be more intense.  Also, after pain medication is administered, many women experience an almost immediate wave of nausea. Patients are allowed to request anti-nausea medication, and doing so prior to the epidural will prevent the uncomfortable feeling. It’s important to drink plenty of water and eat lots of fiber afterward, so you’ll have an easier time after birth with that first (sometimes uncomfortable) bowel movement. Consider adding a fiber supplement or taking a stool softener to keep things moving. If you’re constipated before surgery, you’ll be even more constipated afterward. And don’t pick up anything that weighs more than your baby, at least for the first four weeks, Stitches are usually secure, but activities that engage your core could release a stitch under your skin, in the dense tissue of your abdomen,

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