In celebration of the birth of our fifth baby, I have some baby posts in the line-up this week! (Which I wrote ahead of time.)
Baby Janie was my fourth c-section. Not really my first choice, but my second son was breech, and for various reasons we were not able to do a vbac when our third son was ready to be born. This post is not an attempt to advocate elective c-sections, but there are times when one is unavoidable.
If you are anticipating a c-section delivery, especially for the first time, it can be a little scary! Here are some tips to help you know what to expect.
What to expect during surgery:
- Walking in to the OR is the worst part, in my opinion! It’s cold, and kind of intimidating.
- The anesthesiologist will do a spinal block. The first poke is a medication that numbs the skin and stings a little. After that, the doctor inserts a larger needle with the spinal block medication, but I have not really felt that at all. After the spinal is complete, you will feel a warm sensation, then tingling, then a growing numbness. You won’t be able to move your legs at all for about 3-4 hours after they do the spinal block, which is a weird feeling!
- The nurse will insert a catheter which will stay in place for the next 24 or so hours.
- A large curtain will be hung in front of your face so that you don’t have to see all the gore.
- You will feel a lot of tugging and pressure during the surgery, but shouldn’t feel any pain. The worst pressure is when they are delivering the baby – the doctor will actually be pushing on your belly to push the baby out! It’s pretty intense, but after only a couple of pushes the baby is out.
- Once the baby is born, you will be able to breathe more easily, and there’s so much going on that it makes the rest of the procedure go by quickly. At our hospital, they do a basic cleaning and assessment of the baby and weigh the baby in the OR. Then daddy can bring the baby over to me while the doctor is closing me up.
What to expect during recovery:
- After surgery, you will spend 1-2 hours in recovery. You will have your blood pressure taken frequently, and the nurse will periodically poke your belly (ouch!) to see if your uterus is contracting properly. I have always felt a little dizzy during the recovery period, and with Jonathan I also had a significant amount of shaking. By the time I’m heading to my hospital room those symptoms are usually improved, although it takes a few hours to really start feeling sort of normal again. A c-section is major surgery, after all, plus you have just given birth and been fairly loaded up with drugs.
- At our hospital, the baby stays with mom during the whole process. This was not the case when I had Gresham in 2006, and it’s a huge improvement! I was able to nurse both Jonathan and Janie in the recovery room, which made a big difference.
During the hospital stay:
- The first 24 hours are the most “invasive.” Your IV will stay in for the first 24 hours to deliver fluids and antibiotics, as will the catheter. The nurse will get you up and walking a little bit a couple of times during that 24 hours. Once the IV and catheter are out, it’s so much easier to move around! Well, relatively more easy…
- You will definitely want to stay on top of pain medication, and don’t be afraid to take the heavy stuff. Last time, I got behind on pain management, and it was really hard to get back on top of it! I really hate being on prescription pain meds, but from experience I can tell you that being groggy is better than out-of-control pain.
- Keep track of when your pain medicine doses should be, and make sure that the nurse brings them on time. We had significant trouble with that during this hospital stay due to confusion with the pharmacy over my liquid medicines (I can’t swallow pills).
- Besides the incision pain, you may have soreness from all that tugging and pulling that you felt on your abdomen during the surgery.
- Get up and move when you can. It doesn’t sound like a good idea at the time, but walking and moving really are important for a good recovery.
- Go to the bathroom often. A full bladder will put pressure on your incision and increase your pain level.
- Surgery will create a lot of gas in your body! This slightly embarrassing issue takes a few days to resolve. Sometimes, the gas will cause shoulder pain. I had that this time, and it was pretty sharp pain. Thankfully it only lasted for part of one afternoon.
- Your bleeding will actually be much less with a c-section. Finally, some good news!
- It may take a little longer for your milk to come in after having a c-section because your body is healing from the surgery. I’ve had my milk come in at slightly different times with each baby, though, so it’s not something you can totally predict. How well baby nurses is also an important factor.
- It’s really helpful if your husband can stay with you in the hospital. You won’t be able to jump up every time baby cries!
- Pack comfortable clothes – you won’t want anything tight on your incision. Plan to wear maternity clothes home. It takes a while to get back to your pre-pregnancy size anyway, and the c-section incision makes clothing even more tricky.
- Be sure to pack enough snacks for Dad and anything else he might need. With Jonathan, Jordan had a terrible headache while we were in the hospital, and we hadn’t packed medicine for him. It was at night, and the gift shop was closed, and the nurses couldn’t give him anything. He had to walk to the other end of the hospital to find an exit that was not locked for the night, and all in all it was a big hassle to be going to the store at that hour!
- It can be very overwhelming to have a new baby and be recovering from surgery! Each day will get better. Make time to rest each day, and don’t push yourself too fast. Easier said than done, especially when you have other children, but your health is worth it! The house will be clean again one day – that’s just not the priority for now.
- You will not be able to drive for about two weeks after your surgery. This is because it’s not safe to drive with a painful incision that may keep you from reacting to a car pulling out in front of you, etc.
- Plan on taking pain medication. My experience has been that I have needed prescription pain medicine only for the first few days at home. After that, motrin is fine. After a week or so at home, I have been off all medications, but that probably varies depending on the person.
- Getting in and out of bed can be a challenge with an incision. It might be more comfortable to sleep on the couch for the first night or two at home.
- Plan on help at home, especially if you also have a toddler to care for. You won’t be able to lift toddlers for a while after delivery. If friends offer to help with meals, don’t turn them down!
Have you experienced a c-section? What tips can you add?