Many women aim to have a ‘natural’ birth, by which they usually mean a drug-free vaginal birth without any medical intervention. While this is a wonderful way to bring a baby into the world, it is not always the safest for a mother and/or a baby. Sometimes medical help is needed and, on occasion, that help might include having a cesarean.
A large number of women consider a cesarean birth to be some kind of failure on their part. They think that it is not a ‘proper’ birth or they feel cheated out of the birth experience they had planned.
What many women do not realize is that cesarean delivery is sometimes essential for either mom or baby's safety (sometimes both) and that by choosing a c-section when it has been recommended by your medical team you are choosing the best for your child.
While an emergency cesarean can, by its very nature, be a terrifying and stressful experience, an elective c-section can actually be just as beautiful as any other birth. To help you have the most positive cesarean birth you can, here are some tips from moms who have been there to assist you through the before, during and after of a c-section.
15Prep The House Before You Go
The last few days before you go into the hospital you will want to prep your home for you and your new arrival. You will want to avoid going up and down stairs so have a diaper changing kit and a couple of changes of baby clothes on each floor of the house.
Place a side table next to where you will be sitting during the day and feeding during the night. This will give you a comfortable spot to put anything you need, without having to lean forward to a coffee table or get up and fetch something from another room.
Finally, take a trip around your home and put things you regularly use in places where you can easily reach them without reaching up, bending down, twisting, or stretching.
14Pack A Comfort Kit
The first night in the hospital after your c-section can be a bit odd. You have had major surgery while awake and have all of the natural physical reactions such as a massive adrenaline dump into your system. You have given birth, and your body instantly starts to rearrange your hormonal balance, and you are sore, tired, and alone in a strange place.
A few bits and pieces such a photo of your family, some earphones so you can listen to music and a packet of mints to deal with the post surgery wind can make all of the difference between feeling blue and feeling contented.
Another great thing to take is a nursing pillow. It doesn’t matter if you are breastfeeding or not, a nursing pillow keeps your little one in a very comfortable spot, away from your incision.
13Your Birth, Your Birth Plan
It is often assumed that by having a cesarean delivery, you give up all control and are subject to a sterile (in the emotional sense!) surgical procedure. While it is run-of-the-mill to produce a birth plan for your vaginal birth, few people do the same for their cesarean, but you absolutely should.
As soon as you know you are going to have a cesarean, talk with your ob/gyn about how you like the birth to go. Obviously, you do not have a lot of say in the cutting open your belly and taking a baby out through a huge hole in your abdomen bit of it, but other areas you can.
Ask if you can have music and if you can’t bring along your phone with some ear-buds for the time after the birth when you are being sewn up. Most doctors will allow a camera and will be willing to have theater staff take photos of you all. You can also decide if you would like to watch your baby's entrance into the world.
12Save And Shave Yourself
The night before the birth you should do a few things that will make things run more smoothly and keep you more comfortable.
First of all, you should shave, or if you can’t reach ask your significant other to do the work for you. Shave from about an inch below your bikini line upwards. This will save you having to be shaved when you get to the hospital and means there is one less thing you will have someone doing to you.
Also, make sure you eat plenty right up until the pre-surgery cut-off point especially if yours is scheduled for early morning and your cut-off is midnight. Many women feel shaky or nauseous during or after the c-section, and by the time you feel like eating afterward, it might be almost 24hrs since you last ate and this will leave you extra tired and drained at a time when you need every bit of energy you can get.
11It's Good To Talk
Ask your medical team to talk you through what is happening and what is going to happen next. Not only is an almost silent room unnerving but not knowing what is going on can raise your stress levels.
Through each of my c-sections, my husband and I chatted with the medical team, not only about what was happening but about almost anything and everything. It makes the entire room feel comfortable and relaxed and takes away one layer of the ‘impersonal medical’ feel of the procedure.
When the time comes for your baby to be delivered, hearing that they are about to be here is similar to the ‘just one more push’ moment when you are giving birth vaginally. You have that incredible excitement of knowing that you are just about to meet your baby.
10Skin To Skin
Babies who are born by c-section miss out on all of the squeezing of their body as they are pushed down the birth canal. Because of this, they are more of a dusky color, and they do not alway start breathing straight away. Do not panic. This is OK and quite normal for a cesarean birth.
However, this does mean that most c-section babies are taken to be cleaned up and checked over before being wrapped up and handed to you which can be a bit of a let down if you were hoping for immediate contact with your newborn.
If skin-to-skin contact is important to you, make sure you make it clear to your medical team that you would like to have your baby placed, unwrapped on your chest as soon as possible.
9Feed How You Want To Feed
In a similar vein to the skin-to-skin contact subject, if you want to breastfeed asap make this clear to your team. When having surgery, it is normal to have one arm restrained to ensure the anesthetic is safely administered. Ask your anesthetist if you can have both arms unrestrained, so you will be able to hold and feed your baby soon after birth.
It is also common for some c-section babies to be taken to the NICU if, to begin with, they have trouble maintaining their breathing. If this is the case for your child, tell the NICU staff if you do not want your child given formula from a bottle either at all or before you have the chance to breastfeed if that is your plan. Our fourth child was in the NICU for two days to monitor his breathing, and he was given formula from a bottle which made establishing breastfeeding more difficult.
8Get To Know Your Scar
As soon as you are told it is ok to do so, have a shower and allow the water to run over the dressing on your incision. Once the dressing is soaked peel it back gently to expose your wound but do not try to wash it vigorously. Just let the water flow over it. After your shower pat your scar dry and, if possible lay flat for a little while and expose it to the air.
Use a mirror to take a good look at the incision and your stitches or staples. It is usually the fear of how the cut looks that makes you reluctant to move in case you harm yourself. Gently place your clean flat hand over your scar and reassure yourself that this simple action is safe. Once you become more confident in the strength of your stitches and the robust nature of the repairs to your incision you will feel much more relaxed about movement.
7Comfy Clothes Are A Must
You will have no doubt had anyone, and everyone told you that if you are having a c-section buy some big knickers, so the elastic does not sit on your scar. This is invaluable advice, but it doesn’t go far enough.
Make sure you have some big PJ bottoms and loose t-shirts for the hospital, or extra long nightshirts, so nothing is sitting on your scar. PJs work best as they do not twist around your body as much when you are trying to ease yourself gently in and out of bed. The downside of PJs is that you have to be able to reach your feet to pull them on which can be challenging to say the least when you do not want to bend.
You will also want something similarly loose for the first couple of weeks while you heal, and someone at home to be your personal dresser for the first day or two if you can manage it.
Before the birth, your should ask if you can wear socks in the theater. There is something about the combination of drugs and the way your body responds to being cut open then sewn up that can cause you to get very chilly. Some thick wooly socks may look a touch on the ridiculous side, but you won’t care if you have toasty toes.
You also want to keep a couple of thick pairs handy for after the days you spend in hospital after the birth because your feet will feel inexplicably chilly.
Another top tip is to get slippers or other footwear you can easily slip on and slip off. You want to avoid as many reasons to bend down as possible. Having slip on shoes will help you get out and about with the minimum amount of pain.
5Sanitary Protection Has Many Uses
Many women are surprised to hear that you still bleed after a cesarean in the same way you would after a vaginal birth. So you still need plenty of sanitary protection but make sure you place it somewhere in your bathroom that is at the same level as your hands. Having it within easy reach will be invaluable in the first week or two when bending and twisting are still very difficult.
Another fantastic, if bizarre use for your sanitary protection is to keep a couple in the freezer. When the site of your incision is uncomfortable, you can stick the pad horizontally at the top of your underwear, and it will keep the area comfortably cool without actually having to hold something against yourself.
You can also use the chilled ones inside your bra is your nipples get particularly sore.
4Eat, Drink And Be Merry
Something many people fail to think of is the period between having the c-section and going home. The first few hours are relatively easy as you will probably have plenty of people around but once the visitors are gone, and the ward or your room settles down for the night, you are on your own or at the mercy of staff being available.
You will, however, get hungry and thirsty at inconvenient times during the day and night so bring a small cooler packed with snacks and drinks. You can dispense trail mix, dried fruit or other healthy snacks into Ziploc bags and bring small, child size drinks. One word of warning though. Do not stock up on loads of fruit juice if you are breastfeeding. The diapers of a newborn whose mom is overloaded on fruit is a scary and none-too-fragrant sight.
3Keep On Top Of The Pain Killers
Lots of moms, myself included, do not want to take much, if anything, in the way of medications when they are feeding their baby. There is a natural fear of passing pain medications on to your child through your breast milk. However, taking essential Tylenol threes will not affect your baby in any way and will help you get through the first few days.
Do not make my mistake and wait until your pain kicks in before taking any medication. Once the anesthetic wears off, you will feel pain, after all, you have just had your belly cut open and sewn back together again. By taking the meds straight away, you will avoid hours of pain as you wait for the meds in your system to catch up to your discomfort level.
One gross but important point to make is that the first poop you take will be completely terrifying. The thought of having to push when you are held together by stitches is scary in itself, so the last thing you need is to be struggling to go. To compound this issue, T-3’s can make you constipated, so you may be left wondering if you have to choose between pain and pooping.
The trick to balancing this is to start off by being very well hydrated and stay sipping drinks all through the day.
Do not take any kind of medication, herbal or otherwise, that has a laxative effect. Suddenly having to run to the bathroom is not what you want to be doing and this is doubly important if you are breastfeeding.
Eat plenty of fiber rich food and drink fiber enriched drinks to stay comfortable.
1You Need To Move It Move It
The first few movements you make after the birth will be uncomfortable and pretty scary. It might feel like the last thing you want to do but, as soon as you are allowed, move as much as you can.
I’m not advising you start trying to do sit-ups on the hospital ward floor or anything, just gently push off of your bed and take a few steps. Build up to a lap or two around the department at a time by the end of the second day.
When you get home keep up the movement, adding a little more every day, it will make both your short-term and long-term recovery a lot easier. The action will prevent you from stiffening up and will promote blood flow around the body, helping you heal much faster than if you stay immobile. It will also minimize the risk of blood clots.
Sources: Moms who have been there
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