Preparing for a C-Section
Has your doctor asked you to consider a cesarean birth for your baby? Or are you just worried that you may need one? If so, you’re not alone. About 1 in 3 American babies are delivered by C-section surgery. It’s a safe alternative when you or your baby may have problems during a regular vaginal delivery. You’ll feel more reassured once you know more about the procedure.
C-sections have steadily increased since 1996 for many reasons. Older women are becoming new moms. There’s a jump in women having twins and triplets. More women are overweight. All this can put a pregnancy at risk. Usually, your doctor suggests the surgery for a clear medical reason:
- Your baby is positioned feet first or sideways.
- You have an infection that could be passed on to your baby, such as genital herpes or HIV.
- You have a medical condition that puts your health at risk, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Your placenta, the tissue that delivers food and oxygen to your baby, is too low.
- Your baby has a birth defect.
In those cases, you’ll know weeks or at least days in advance. But most C-sections are not planned. The decision is usually made when a problem occurs during labor – the umbilical cord gets pinched, the placenta detaches too soon, your baby is too big, or your baby’s heart rate slows down.
What to Expect
Most C-sections are done after a spinal block or an epidural numbs your lower body, leaving your mind clear and alert. Your baby’s father can probably stay in the operating room if you want. He can even hold your hand.
The surgeon cuts through your abdomen, usually just above the pubic area – it’s called a "bikini cut" because no one can see it when you wear a tiny bathing suit. Then your doctor makes an incision in your uterus, and lifts out your baby and the placenta. You may feel movement, a sense of tugging on your skin, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. In emergencies, the doctor may need to cut from your belly button down to your pubic area in order to get your baby out quickly.
Once the incisions are sewn up, you’ll move to a recovery room for a few hours. You may feel a little itchy and nauseous. You may also feel some confusion, anxiety, or sorrow. All of these are normal after anesthesia and wear off soon. Nurses are nearby to help you. You should have a call button right by your bed in case you want to call a nurse over.
Full recovery takes longer. You will probably stay in the hospital on a ward for new moms for three or four days after the surgery.