I have been asked on more than one occasion to give a little bit of information and insight on what to expect for a scheduled C-section and I am always more than happy to share my experience! Since it seems to be something that people want to know about, I thought I’d go ahead and make it into a blog post so that more people can find it if they need it. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, because this is lengthy!
Keep in mind here, that this is my personal experience at my local hospital (Saint John Regional Hospital) so things may be done differently where you are. If you have detailed questions about how things are done at your facility, give them a call and ask! Also, I am in Canada so these services are free for me. They may not be free of charge where you are.
You will likely be called in for a pre-op appointment, most likely the day before your scheduled surgery. At this appointment they take all of your info like weight, blood pressure, medical history, etc. They also do a quick ultrasound to check on baby’s position. They will probably give you some antacid pills to take and you won’t be allowed to eat or drink anything for the 12 hours before surgery. This is a great time to ask questions so that you can ease some of the nervousness that you’re no doubt feeling!
Day of Surgery
The morning of, you’ll go in and they’ll get you into a gown (bring a bag for your clothes and your support person’s clothes, Nick had to carry everything around and it was a little difficult with the shoes and everything), get your IV started, and they’ll shave you (not everything, just right above your pubic bone) unless you’ve already done that yourself. At that point, I couldn’t see anything down there so I wasn’t doing much landscaping ! To give you an idea, I can wear low cut underwear or bikini bottoms and my scar is low enough that you can’t see it. I was most nervous at this point, because you get there an hour early and just have to wait. My c-section with Ben was an emergency so I didn’t have to do all of this, it was just right to the OR from Labour & Delivery so there was a lot less worrying and a lot more “just get this kid out of me”!
Once the anesthesiologist is ready for you (I had Dr. Keith and he was AMAZING!) you’ll go in for your epidural. They’ll have you lay on your side and curl into a C position to get it into the right place. Dr. Keith talked to me the entire time and made me feel much more at ease. He told me everything that I would be feeling and everything that he was doing. They do freeze your back in the spot where the needle goes in so that you can’t actually feel it. When I had Ben, I had a complete spinal so I was frozen from the armpits down but for Alex they did an epidural that only froze my midsection so I still had sensation in my toes. Nick was with me the whole time for this.
So once that’s in, they bring you into the OR and your support person will have to wait outside until they have you all set up on the table which only takes a few minutes and the anesthesiologist stays with you the whole time. They’ll put in your catheter once you’re frozen so you don’t feel that. Your doctor will be in as soon as you’re all ready on the table and they’ll have someone assisting for the surgery. Dr. Keith talked to me the whole time and really kept me calm . He stayed right above my head and so that I could be looking right at him and focus on him rather than being nervous. They’ll set a chair beside your head for your support person and they’ll bring them in just as things are ready to get going.
The surgery itself is really quick! I was booked in for 8am and Alex was born at 8:32 so it doesn’t take much time at all. They’ll be telling you the whole time what you can expect to be feeling but to me it felt like a lot of tugging and pulling! They really have to dig in there to get baby out! When they’re actually pulling the baby out, it will feel like someone is sitting on your chest and it’s a bit hard to breathe but it’ll only last a few seconds. For Ben I got scared but I remembered the feeling when I had Alex and was able to stay calm and breathe normally. Nick didn’t watch when Ben was born but he did with Alex. If your support person has a weak stomach, they may just want to focus on looking at your face! All I could see from my point of view was Nick and Dr. Keith right above my head. When Dr. Trites (my OB) pulled Alex out he peed all over her! Dr. Keith lifted my head so that I could see Alex as soon as he was out. Then they took him off to the side (I could still hear him crying) and weighed him and cleaned him up a bit. At the same time, Dr Trites was stitching me back up. They brought Alex back over and Nick held him on my chest. It was probably about 10 mins or so after that and they were all finished and Nick held Alex and walked beside me to Recovery as I was wheeled there in my bed.
With Ben, the atmosphere in the OR was tense but with my scheduled section for Alex, it was relaxed, happy and a great experience
You’ll be in Recovery for a few hours and they’ll monitor you the whole time. The nurse with us got us doing some skin to skin and had me try breastfeeding him. They’ll be checking your blood pressure, oxygen level and will see if you can start to move your feet. You may start to shiver and shake as the epidural wears off. I did both times. I didn’t actually feel cold but was shaking and that lasted for quite a while. You can read more about it in this article. Once they’re satisfied that everything is good, you’ll be taken to your room! I think I got to my room around lunchtime.
I felt very good but very tired. In terms of pain, you won’t really feel much unless you’re moving. As long as everything is going well, they’ll try to get you up and moving as quickly as you can manage which is definitely for the better. I think they had me out of bed and walking to the bathroom just after supper that day. It’s a real pain in the ass walking with the catheter but once that’s out it’s much easier and it doesn’t hurt at all for them to take that out.
When they come in to check your vitals they’ll also check your stomach and incision. I felt really gassy after Ben but not as much with Alex. I think it’s because I was able to move around a lot more after Alex. You’ll still have postpartum bleeding but it may not be as bad. I think it was all done for me after about a week after Alex. Only heavy the first few days. The first few days are also the most difficult pain wise. The hardest part is remembering to push and pull yourself up using your arms because you can’t use your stomach muscles. I just made sure to move very slowly lol! I was feeling almost normal a week after I had Alex. Make sure to continue taking pain medication once you go home. I asked the nurse what my dosage was and at what times and I just kept the same schedule for pain meds at home. I only needed it for that first week but it REALLY helps. Your back will probably be really sore and a hot shower really helps for that.
Depending on how many days you’re in, you may have your staples (or stitches) removed before you leave or you might have to go back to get them out. Either way, it doesn’t hurt at all to get those out and it feels soooooo much better once they’re out and not pulling at your skin.
The first 2 weeks you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than the baby for sure. After that, see how you feel and take it slowly. I felt great after 2 weeks but I didn’t lift Ben for pretty much a month because my recovery was going so well and I didn’t want to mess it up. Even walking and standing for any length of time will be difficult at first so you’ll definitely feel it if you’re going to fast. Your back will be really sore because you basically have no ab muscles and are using your back muscles to keep upright. The first few days are the most painful and even standing to brush my teeth was hard so I’d lean on the counter. I had to have Nick help with a lot of things like getting out of bed. You really take for granted all of the things you use your ab muscles for until you suddenly can’t use them!
As long as you take it slowly and don’t go overboard with strenuous activity, you should be as good as new very soon! Again, please keep in mind that this was my personal experience at the hospital in my area. Your birth facility may do things differently and if you have specific questions, please be sure to ask them. This post is just to give you an idea of what I felt like and how things went for me personally.
Feel free to ask me questions in the comments, or send me an email if you’d feel more comfortable with that. I am happy to help ease your mind as much as I can!
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