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  • Writer's pictureOnce Upon A Mommy

What To Expect Before, During and After a C-Section…

Updated: Feb 26

By Cris S.

February 20, 2024


4 out of my 5 children were c-sections. So you could say that I have quite a bit of experience with the whole process, from beginning to end, and then the recovery afterwards. If you have a planned cesarean section coming up, or you want to arm yourself with the knowledge just in case, then let me share with you some of the most important things to know about c-sections:

  • Let's start with the basics: This varies slightly between hospitals, but for the most part the entire process looks about the same. You and your husband will first be taken to the room which you will be spending the next couple days in. After you get settled and into a gown, the nurse will insert an IV, check your vitals, and hook you up to a fetal monitor to check and see how the baby is doing. You will usually receive a visit from the anesthesiologist (who will be in charge of your spinal or epidural) and your provider. Once everything is ready, you will be taken into the operating room by yourself. No, your husband will not be able to be present while they are prepping you for surgery, but DON'T WORRY! Once you are all set up and your provider is ready to begin the procedure, your hubby will be let back in and will be sitting right next to you. And yes, you can hold his hand. (Or squeeze the crap out of it, like I did!) After tests to make sure your vitals are stable and you are completely numb, the surgery will begin. On average it takes about 30-50 minutes from the time of the first cut to when they start stitching you back up. (Once again, this will vary, but remember I did do it four times with all different doctors) There will be a curtain hanging in front of you so you can't see all the nitty gritty going on (trust me, it's for the better!)

  • You will not feel any pain during the procedure, but you will feel some pressure and a sort-of "pulling" sensation. Once again, not pain! Once they get to the uterus and start actually pulling your baby out is when you will feel the most pressure, but after those few seconds, you will be looking right at your sweet new baby! Most of the time the baby warmer and scale are within your line of sight... That way while they are putting you back together, you can watch in awe as they do baby's first weigh in, foot prints, hospital bracelets, etc. They always had my husband cut the umbilical cord. Assuming your baby is looking healthy and strong, Daddy will be handed the baby after she gets a little cleaned up and wrapped up. He can then help hold her on your chest or by your face. (Your arms will have limited movement at this point).

  • You will be moved through the recovery process fairly quickly. If you have a c-section in the morning, you will likely be up and moving around later that same day (with close supervision and pain meds in your system). The catheter which empties your bladder may be removed later that same day or the next. Nurses will have to regularly massage and push on your uterus to make sure it is contracting and shrinking back to its previous smaller size. This is uncomfortable, but necessary to make sure the bleeding doesn't get out of control. Usually you are only allowed to consume ice chips the first couple hours after a c-section. The provider will gradually allow you a more expanded diet depending on how you are keeping food down. (I never had ANY issues keeping food down after my c-sections: With my second one, I was inhaling a burger and fries later that same day!)

  • You will bleed after a c-section just like you would after a natural birth. You will still need the giant pads those first couple days and it may still sting when you have to pee (I always found this strange since I didn't actually push a baby out). Also the chances for constipation are fairly high after a c-section, so make sure you have stool softeners on hand at home. Some providers want you to cover the incision with a dressing for a few days after, and some providers will have you leave it open to air. I had a different doctor with each c-section and was instructed to do it differently each time, but no matter which way I did it, the incision healed just fine every time.

  • Don't assume your recovery will be the same as a natural birth recovery (I have done both) Yes, it can be uncomfortable after a natural birth but don't forget that a c-section is a major surgery. You will absolutely need pain medicine those first couple days after. Make sure you listen to your doctor and don't try to force your body to recover faster than it actually can. I made that mistake after a couple of my c-sections. I'm a busy go-getter and after having my babies, I wanted to be up and about and heal as fast as possible so I could get on with life with my new baby. Every time I tried to push it, I regretted it! Whether it was trying to be the "tough mom" and not use pain medication two days after the surgery, or walking way more than I was advised to a week later, I learned that pushing yourself too hard will result in lots more pain and a longer recovery. Listen to your Doctor's timelines for activity and lifting limits!

  • If the hospital asks you if you would like an abdominal binder, say YES! And if they don't provide you with one, BUY ONE! Here is the one I used from Amazon: CLICK HERE TO SEE ABDOMINAL BINDER. This product was an absolute necessity for my recoveries... It wraps securely around your entire abdomen and helps add adjustable pressure so it's easier to sit up and bend down to pick up your newborn. It also gave me a sense of security and kept anything from accidentally scraping my incision. I wore it for a couple months after each c-section and it always felt so wonderful having the added support. (Not to mention it got me back into my normal pants a bit sooner!)

  • I found it worked best for me to sleep on the couch the first week after my c-section. Your abdominal muscles are virtually useless for a while after the surgery, and it was much easier for me to be able to use the side and back of the couch to help pull myself up. Plus the couch was firmer and actually more comfortable for me. I was also in closer proximity to the kitchen and bathroom.

  • Plan to have someone go with you to you and your baby's appointments those first couple weeks after the birth. It will be difficult to carry the car seat, diaper bag, hold open doors, etc. It's not impossible to handle by yourself, but trust me... Life doesn't have to be that hard! Don't be so prideful that you don't want to ask for help, even if you don't normally like asking for help (like me!)

  • If you have other kids, talk to them about what the recovery process may look like before you come home. The sweetest thing ever is one of your little ones running to give you a big giant hug once you leave the hospital, but if they aren't careful you can really get injured! Also talk to them about ways they can help around the house those first couple weeks after the new baby comes home.

  • If your home has multiple floors, make sure you have a basket with diapers, wipes, extra baby clothes and burp cloths on each one. You will be more comfortable limiting your use of stairs that first week after the surgery, so do yourself a favor and have everything you need on hand no matter where you are!

Ultimately, it makes no difference how your sweet new baby comes into this world. Whether you give birth naturally or via a c-section, the moment is magical (and messy) but one you will cherish for the rest of your life. While everyone's attention will be solely on your adorable new bundle of joy, don't forget to take care of yourself too! A c-section requires you to pay a little extra attention to your recovery and has a few extra steps than you would with a natural birth, but in the end what matters is that Mommy and Baby are healthy and happy!

Happy Parenting! Feel free to check out my post "Newborn Advice From a Mom Who's Been There 5 Times!"

XOXO - Cris

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