About one in four babies in this country are born by cesarean section. That means there’s at least a 25 percent chance your baby will be delivered via an incision in your abdomen instead of through your vagina. Whether you plan your C-section months in advance or you learn you need it as you’re being wheeled into surgery, knowing what to expect from the procedure can go a long way toward easing anxiety.
The doctor will give you a spinal or epidural pain blocker if you hadn’t already received one. General anesthesia, which works faster, is typically used only in an emergency procedure. Next, the doctor will make two incisions—usually one just above your bikini line and another in your uterus—to deliver the baby. You may feel pulling or pressure but not pain. Your baby will make his or her grand entrance in the first 10 minutes or so. While the doctor examines your baby and clamps the umbilical cord, your surgeon will remove the placenta and stitch your incisions. All told, the procedure takes about 45 minutes. Afterward, you may have nausea or trembling, an effect of the anesthesia, your contracting uterus or an adrenaline letdown. It usually passes quickly.
To get the most from your childbirth experience, try the following tips:
- Practice the deep breathing and relaxation exercises you learned in childbirth class. These can help calm you before the surgery.
- Ask for help with breastfeeding as soon as you’re able to sit up and hold your baby.
- Take a picture as soon as possible to record your baby’s first moments in your arms.
Expect to stay in the hospital for about three days. During this time, you may experience some nausea, pain around the incision site and vaginal bleeding as your uterus shrinks back to size. To speed recovery:
- Walk around as soon as you get the OK. Movement (take it slow!) helps prevent constipation and blood clots.
- Take your pain medication. The better you feel, the better you’ll be able to care for and bond with your baby. Ask your doctor to prescribe medication that’s safe to take while breastfeeding.
Caring for a newborn baby and recovering from major surgery is no small feat. To make things easier:
- Enlist help. This is no time to be superwoman. Ask friends and family to prepare meals or run errands.
- Keep things handy. Set up multiple changing and feeding stations so you can avoid stairs or too much walking.
- Stay nourished. Eating healthfully builds your stamina. Drink plenty of fluids to keep bowels regular and get your milk flowing if you’re breastfeeding.
- Avoid lifting. To prevent straining your incision, don’t lift anything heavier than your baby.
- Avoid driving, exercise and intimacy. Wait for your doctor’s approval, usually by your six-week checkup. You may get the go-ahead to drive sooner.