While voluntarily schedule cesarean sections (C-sections) are an option, most women intend to have a vaginal birth. This is how women’s bodies were designed to deliver babies after all. However, there are a myriad of situations that can cause your obstetrician to recommend – or make the executive decision – that a C-section is in order. This means that either your well-being, the baby’s, or both are in jeopardy and the baby needs to be delivered as soon as possible.
Even if you’re planning a completely natural birth, in a birthing center, surrounded by midwives, it’s still a good idea to create a Plan B for your birth plan so you and your partner can make accommodations accordingly.
Here is an overview as to what you can expect if you have to give birth by cesarean section:
Phase 1: Consent and anesthesia.
Unless there is an acute emergency, your doctor will have prepped you that a C-section is a possibility. You will have to sign some authorization form. Once the appropriate forms have been signed, you will be prepped for surgery, which includes anesthesia. If you already have an epidural in place, you will be given a higher dose, which will make sure you are completely numb from about the ribcage down to the tips of your toes. If you have been going au naturel thus far, an epidural will be administered. You will also be given a special chalky drink to neutralize your stomach acids, as well as a catheter and an IV.
Phase 2: The surgery
In most cases, your spouse or birthing partner will be allowed into the surgical suite with you so you have company. It is important that you and your partner are aware that this is a full-blown surgical procedure. It is a common one, yes, but it is still a serious procedure. Although there will be a screen put up between you and your abdomen so that you can’t watch exactly what is going on, your partner may witnessing a fair amount of the procedure, depending on the placement of screens and reflective surfaces.
There will be a lot of hubbub and conversation between doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, and potentially a pediatrician in the room. A nurse will shave just enough of your pubic hair to accommodate the incision. The incision itself is only about 6-inches in length. Although you won’t feel any pain at all, you may be surprised at the pressure you feel as muscles and connective tissues are shifted, and as the baby is removed up from the birth canal and out of the uterus.
Phase 3: The delivery of your beautiful baby (or babies!)
Once the incision is made, your baby will be delivered within a few minutes or a half-an-hour, depending on the situation. If all is well, you may be able to hold your baby immediately after he/she is delivered. If this is important to you, have a conversation with your OB regarding the climates in various hospitals. If you don’t make your desires known ahead of time, your baby will be cleaned, warmed, measured/weighed and theAPGAR test will be administered before you are able to hold him/her.
Once it is determined that all is well, you will be stitched back up as you revel in the fact that you are a new mommy. You may feel a bit nauseous or experience intense shivering or shaking. That is a normal side effect of the surgery. You will spend about an hour in the recovery room while your heart rate and oxygen saturation are monitored and slowly but surely the feeling will return to your legs.
Phase 4: Your recovery
As we mentioned before, this is a full surgical procedure and you will be aware of that as you recover. For the first day, you will be connected to a pump that gives you a heavy pain reliever (usually morphine) upon command. On the second day, you’ll be switched to oral meds and will be asked to get up, walk a little, go to the bathroom on your own etc. This is all important in order to get your body moving again! You should take as much pain medication as you need to move comfortably as it is unhealthy to remain immobile.
By the third or fourth day, you will be sent home. It is typical for women with C-sections to have morecomplications with nursing than women who have given birth vaginally. Do not hesitate to contact the hospital or a local La Leche League to get breast feeding assistance as soon and as often as you need it.
Your doctor will want to see you at Week 2, to make sure your incision is healing well and at Week 6 for your traditional post-partum visit.
Contact Overlake OB/GYN to work with a compassionate and well-rounded group of doctors, nurses, and midwives. We are dedicated to helping women to experience an empowering pregnancy, labor, and delivery.