When I had my first C-section back in 2016, I had no idea what to expect. It wasn’t the birth I had planned or had hoped for after a natural vaginal birth with my first. When I learned that my baby was breech during the latter stages of pregnancy, it was recommended that a C-section was the safest option for both my baby and I, and therefore I was booked in for an elective.
The experience was actually incredibly calm and nothing like what I had feared – a stark difference to the 36 hour labor I had experienced with my first, and my baby daughter was in my arms just 45 minutes later.
Here are the things I wish I’d known before my C-section.
- Don’t be afraid to still have a birth plan – whilst you may not need to go into the same level of detail that you would have done for a natural labor, you may still have specific preferences relating to the birth that you would like to note down. You may want to have music playing in the background, may want to use a doula, may want to have the curtain down during the procedure and may want to have your partner cut the cord or request delayed clamping. Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s still your body and still your birth.
- Don’t get hung up about the fact you’re not having a ‘normal’ birth, I really struggled with this at first, but the reality is a birth is a birth no matter which way your baby enters the world, and both are something to be celebrated.
- You may feel some tugging and pulling during the procedure. Whilst the spinal anesthesia removes any sensation of pain, you can still tell that something is happening, as your body moves and adjusts. It’s not uncomfortable, but a strange sensation and I am glad they advised me of this beforehand!
- In C-section recovery, you may feel a bit cold and shaky, and therefore you may feel slightly nervous holding your newborn – this feeling wears off fairly quickly.
- Your legs may feel numb for quite some time after the spinal anesthesia, but they gradually start to regain feeling as it wears off. You are likely to have a catheter in the interim. You will be encouraged to get up and walk around slowly as soon as you are able.
- Your wound will be a little sore, and therefore getting up and out of bed can be tricky. Don’t be afraid to ask for help lifting your baby in and out of the crib, or to have someone support you getting out of the bed. If your hospital bed is adjustable, lower it down to where feels most comfortable to make getting in and out that little bit easier.
- Big panties. Never underestimate the need for big panties. Whilst your C-section is healing, you want to avoid having anything rub against or on your wound, so look to wear panties in a couple of sizes larger than your normally size or buy post-operative underwear.
- Trapped wind is very common after a C-section, and therefore you may experience some dull pains or feel gassy. Peppermint tea or sucking on mints can help reduce the symptoms and make you feel more comfortable!
- On the journey home, hold a pillow over your tummy under the seatbelt, as you are likely to feel every bump and turn in the road! Ask your partner to drive a little slower and be smoother round the corners, and avoid bumpy routes where ever possible!
- Rest as much as possible when you are home. Even if you are independent and stubborn like me, and used to doing things for yourself, accept the support and remember that you have just been through major surgery. Avoid doing too much too soon, as this may leave you open to increased risk of infection. Recovery times vary completely from one person to the next, but take it easy, and make the most of the help whilst you can get it!