One of my friends recently had a planned caesarean section with her second baby, due to an awkward and unsafe baby position (totally unexpected compared with her birthplan and what she thought she’d be having throughout her pregnancy).
As I’d had one (unplanned, but the least emergency-like one could possibly be) there were lots of questions coming my way. I thought I’d give some tips that I’d like to have known beforehand, whether planned or unplanned.
My 10 tips for having a caesarean section
1, A csection can be calm and relaxed
My csection was officially an emergency due to non-progression of labour, however I prefer to call it unplanned. We didn’t get to active labour having been on a drip for 13 hours and not getting past 3cm. So we had a discussion, and agreed that if nothing further had happened in a couple of hours, we’d go to theatre. The baby wasn’t distressed, I was fine, so it was all very relaxing and matter of fact.
Although there were more people in the room than there would be for a normal delivery, I walked down to theatre, discussed and agreed what would happen. Agreeing where the student midwife would stand (at my head, no need for commentary throughout, because my OH wasn’t going anywhere near theatre). There was a sweepstake on the size of the baby by the staff in theatre, and the op happened. It was all a bit out of body experience, but very calm.
I would imagine a planned csection, assuming no dangerous situation, would be similar. So they don’t need to be terrifying experiences. Plus of course, the calmer you are, it can only help with bonding with the baby, and recovery afterwards.
2, Take the pain relief you’re given at the times you’re advised
There was a woman in the bed opposite me on the ward afterwards, and she just wasn’t taking her medication. Fine if she wasn’t in pain, but she was then asking staff for stronger drugs. To me, that’s madness. I recorded when I was taking mine, and then you can keep track if you get asked by the midwives. I was lucky in that I didn’t have much ongoing pain (obviously helped by taking what I’d been prescribed as I needed it), so by the time I was home I wasn’t on anything more than paracetamol.
3, Ask for skin to skin as soon as possible
With a csection it’s really important especially if you want to breastfeed, and although the baby needs to be checked, they also need to be with their mother and unless there’s a problem there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have your baby next to you as soon as possible. If you can’t have it, why not get the dad to have skin to skin instead.
4. If you want a specific piece of music, then ask if you can have it in theatre with you
Make sure you include anything calming that you want in your birthplan and discuss it with your midwife beforehand to check what is and isn’t possible. I didn’t have anything specific as I wasn’t fussed. I can’t even remember now whether the surgeon or anaesthetist even had music playing, but I know some people do. It will obviously depend on the hospital, but it’s worth asking if you’re keen.
If you know you’re having a csection, and you need a tidy up down below and don’t want the midwives to have to shave you, then I recommend hair removal slightly lower than you might think. Spoken from experience!
6, Get active as soon as possible
Yes, you’ll not be able to move your legs for a while, the time depending on whether you have a spinal block or epidural, but it’s really key to recovery to get out of bed as soon as possible. For sanity as much as anything else in my view.
The woman in the bed opposite me was asking for wheelchairs to get to the shower on day 2, and didn’t get herself out of bed in the time I was in. 5 days later going to the midwife check, I saw her hobbling around. She’d had a planned csection and told me there’d been no complications, she was young and healthy, so I really think that getting up and about quicker might have helped her recover quicker.
Obviously you need to take things easy with lifting things, and getting up and out of chairs and bed, but simple movements will help.
7, Take it easy when you get home. Don’t lift too much
Although my OH didn’t take time off after we were back home, I was lucky in that my mum lived nearby and would come over and help me out in terms of housework. I did normal everyday stuff, but avoided lifting ridiculous weights. They say don’t lift anything more than your baby’s weight – I’m not sure I lived strictly by that, but I definitely took it easier and enjoyed the time I had in those initial few weeks with N, without worrying about having to do housework.
I’d also say watch out for lower back ache. I’ve never suffered before or since, but changing N on the bed at too low a height didn’t help. I found I had to kneel to do it rather than stand and bend, but I still had a bit of backache for a while.
8, Watch out for getting out of bed
I didn’t find it too painful afterwards. But getting out of bed was the hardest thing for a while. I found the best least painful way was to swing my legs out and over the side, then roll up to sitting and then standing. It must have looked funny, but meant less pain for me.
9, Big pants and roll top trousers
Stating the obvious here, but even if you’re not planning a csection, it’s worth taking big pants with you for afterwards. But definitely essential if you end up with a csection. I just bought cheapo packs from supermarkets and they did the job until I wanted to be back in my normal ones.
I didn’t find too many of my trousers an issue so was back in (maternity) jeans fairly quickly, but straight afterwards I relied on my yoga style trousers. I had a pair of normal Pineapple workout trousers which had no specific waistband which were great as they came up quite high. The most comfortable ones I wore were similar style thick jersey trousers with a roll top/fold down. They were great for maternity wear as well, as you can wear the fold down bit over the bump beforehand.
10, Watch your scar
Some people find they get infections with their scar, so you need to keep a watch on it. I had beads fixing mine, and from comparing notes, I’m glad I had those as they seemed less hassle than the alternative. It’s a case of washing gently, use a neutral shower gel or the like, and speak to the midwife or doctor if you have any worries.
So they’re my top tips.
While most people would prefer a natural birth, and there are major inconveniences in having a csection (poor stomach muscles afterwards, not being able to drive for 6 weeks unless you have car insurance that will let you or a doctor who will actually assess you – mine wouldn’t), it’s not the end of the world having one if you’re going to get your baby at the end of it.
Did you have a c section? What tips would you recommend?