When mom gets pregnant for the first time, it's common for her to think everything will go according to plan, from pregnancy to birth. Sometimes this is the case, but other times mom gets thrown a few curveballs as the pregnancy progresses. One of those may be getting told she is likely to require a C-section when it's time for her child to be born.
C-section rates have risen in many countries, with the United States' rate at 30 percent. This means the likelihood that mom will need a C-section is higher in countries where the surgery is most common. There are situations where mom will need a C-section, and she needs to be prepared just in case. Even if she ends up with a v-birth, being prepared for a possible C-section will help her not be caught off guard and may alleviate some of her stress about the possible surgery.
There are simple things mom can do to help her be ready for a C-section, and they are great ways to prepare for birth anyway. Preparation prevents panic, so when the panic starts to take over, mom can check out this list and find ways to help control what she can.
20 Write a Birth Plan
It may seem silly to write a birth plan when a C-section is likely in store, but it's still absolutely worth it. Writing a birth plan helps mom prepare for birth, no matter how it occurs, so having a birth plan makes sense for every woman.
Within mom's birth plan she can include what to do in case of a C-section and make her requests explicitly known to her doctor and the hospital staff. Mom doesn't have to give up every part of her birthing wishes just because things go surgical. There still may be an opportunity for skin-to-skin time, early breastfeeding, and other wishes mom has, even with a C-section birth.
19 Talk to Her Partner
Mom doesn't need to feel isolated by the possibility of a C-section, and she doesn't need to assume her partner won't still be able to play a role in the birthing process. Sure, he won't exactly be coaching her when she's pushing, but his support and help is still going to be needed.
Mom needs to open up to her partner about her worries and her hopes for birth. This will give him a way to be her voice if she doesn't want to deal with hospital staff while mentally preparing for a surgical birth. It also lets dad feel included in the process and may help alleviate his worries about the surgery.
18 Know About C-sections
Every person should know how much information they want, but knowledge is usually power, so it's not a bad idea to study up on C-sections before it's time to have one. Read balanced, well-researched pieces from reliable sources, and calm some of her fears by holding on to actual facts.
Yes, C-sections can be intimidating, but mom gets to be awake to welcome her child into the world most of the time, and there are situations where C-sections are the safest route for mom or the baby, or both. Knowing what to expect can help mom prepare by eliminating her worries.
17 Plan A Gentle C-section
Gentle C-sections are becoming popular because of how much they help mom retain some aspects of the v-birthing process while still going through surgery. Gentle sections involve mom being allowed to watch the birth through a hole in the curtain, the baby being delivered slowly from mom's womb so he receives the benefit of squeezes to clear his lungs, and immediate contact with mom if possible.
Gentle C-sections allow mom to breastfeed early and not be separated from her baby, creating an experience that feels less surgical and more bonding focused. The circumstances have to be right and mom's doctor has to agree to perform a gentle C-section, but they can help the mom who is having trouble dealing with the idea of a C-section.
16 Talk to Her OB
Mom's doctor needs to be in on what she is thinking throughout the pregnancy, including how she feels about a possible C-section. Her OB can likely answer questions and help her understand what the process will be like so mom can come to terms with it, just in case. The OB can also let mom know her policies on gentle C-sections.
OBs perform C-sections regularly, so they know what the experience will likely look like. Don't hide worries or questions from the doctor. The OB is the right person to go to when mom's mind starts spinning since she knows the process.
15 Let Go of Assumptions
Some women don't realize they have incorrect beliefs about what birth is until faced with the idea of a C-section. Mom may find she only equates birth with the actual v-birthing process, making her somehow feel less than at the thought of needing a C-section. This simply isn't true.
Having a baby is having a baby, no matter how it happens. An unmedicated v-birth is birth just like one with an epidural is. A C-section is birth, even if it is a surgery. A baby comes out, and mom will have to recover no matter how she has her baby. Letting go of inaccurate assumptions is an important step in preparing for a C-section.
14 Check Health Coverage
A surgical birth will cost more than a standard delivery, so it's important that mom knows what her health insurance covers before she gives birth. This will give her a way to save and prepare in case she has to pay for a C-section and a longer hospital stay.
Surgeries require medical equipment, a longer hospital visit, and usually more staff to assist. This ups the price of bringing a baby into the world substantially. Plus, mom has to be at a hospital to have a C-section, so she will need to make sure that is covered by her health coverage since this can't be done at a birthing center.
13 Prepare the Home for Recovery
Recovering from a C-section can present some challenges because mom has been cut open so the baby can be retrieved. Though mom will be sent home with pain medication, and only once she is able to function at home, preparing the home for recovery beforehand is a good idea.
Have a table next to where mom will sit stocked with water, books, and the remotes so mom won't have to get up and down as often, pulling on her incision. Make sure food is already prepared and ready to be popped into the oven so that won't be something she has to deal with. Take everything that can be done beforehand and do it.
12 Assess Her Response to Medication
If mom has ever needed the services of an anesthesiologist before, then she needs to think back on that experience and assess her body's response. Does medicine make her queasy? Does her blood pressure fall lower than normal? Does she need more medication than most people to feel the effects?
Passing this information to the nurses before surgery is a good idea so the experience can be tailored to mom's needs a bit more. There are anti-nausea meds for the mom who feels sick from the spinal or epidural, and blood pressure can be monitored closely if mom's is already low to begin with. If mom wants the doctor to check multiple times to make sure she can't feel anything, she can ask.
11 Tour the Hospital
Sometimes being able to visualize a setting helps calm worries about what is going to happen. Every woman should tour the hospital she is going to give birth in, and women who are going to have C-sections don't need to skip this step. No, mom may not be taking advantage of the birthing rooms, but it's still a good idea to see where she and the baby will be staying.
Mom can ask to see the recovery rooms and to peek into the operating room if possible. She can meet the nurses and express her excitement and concerns from the start. Seeing and exploring the place she will meet her child can help her feel more excitement than panic.
10 Research her OB's C-section Rate
C-section rates have soared in certain countries, so many women worry they will end up having a C-section they don't really need simply because surgical births are so common now. One way to alleviate this worry is to find out her doctor's C-section rate. How often does her OB perform C-sections? What are the reasons?
This will help mom decide if she is with a doctor who will fight for a v-delivery if she wants one or one who will prefer a C-section, even if it's not strictly necessary. She can then make sure she is with the right person to help her have her baby.
9 Discuss Future VBACs
If the possibility of a C-section looks pretty certain, mom can ask her doctor about a possible v-birth after C-section (VBAC) in the future. If she doesn't want to have a repeat C-section, VBACs are an option for certain women, and her OB can let her know if she performs them and if she thinks mom would be a good candidate.
It's not that mom has to plan for the second baby while she's pregnant with the first. Some women just experience comfort in the fact that they might not always have C-sections, that they have other options in the future.
8 Line up Help for Recovery
It's also wise to have help when bringing a new baby home from the hospital. However, it's even more important if mom has a C-section because she is recovering from a major surgery. She will likely take home medications and need help figuring out the best ways to move around without pain in those early days.
Mom will also need to rest when possible, and it's not easy if she doesn't have someone to help with the baby. Rest will aid in recovery, but babies are not less needy just because mom had a C-section. Helpers can watch the baby when needed, help with cooking, and keep things around the house running while mom recovers.
7 Think About What She Wants to See
Mom may be given the option to watch the baby be born via C-section. This means either the curtain will be left down or a square shape will be cut into it so mom can view what is going on on the other side. She could even have a see-through curtain.
For some women, this makes them feel more connected to the birth and allows them to see the baby as soon as he or she emerges. For others, this is not a good idea. A woman who doesn't do well will seeing blood probably shouldn't watch the surgery. It's her her body that is being affected. Mom needs to think about how she will respond before surgery arrives.
6 Make Decisions About Breastfeeding
Every mom needs to think about how she feels about breastfeeding before giving birth. Women who may end up with a C-section really need to plan ahead so they will have a better chance of being successful.
Breastfeeding soon after birth is connected to higher rates of success and a longer breastfeeding relationship. With a surgical birth, mom will want to make sure she tells her doctor her plans so they can cooperate to get the baby feeding as soon as possible. This may mean planning a gentle C-section and leaving the baby with mom in the OR or getting the baby to the recovery room with mom as soon as possible.
5 Check Her Maternity Leave Policy
In some countries, moms are guaranteed a certain amount of maternity leave. In others, it depends on their employer. Some moms receive no paid leave and others have a very short amount of time. Mom will need to know how much time she has because it takes longer to recover from a C-section, and doctors generally won't sign off for mom to go back to work for at least eight weeks.
Mom may have to use vacation days or take unpaid leave to make sure she fully recovers. Planning for this beforehand makes it less stressful in case a C-section occurs.
4 Stay Active
Mom needs to follow her doctor's orders, and it's possible she will be put on bedrest or have her activity limited during pregnancy. However, if she doesn't then she needs to stay active. Staying active helps mom have an easier pregnancy, and it may make her recovery from the C-section easier as well.
It's not good for mom to lose her endurance because when the baby arrives, she will need to be able to regain her strength. The more out of shape she is from not moving during pregnancy, the longer it can take to get back on her feet after the C-section.
3 Tune Out Certain Voices
Some people are very helpful when they find out mom may need a C-section. They offer practical advice and help for when the time comes. Others tell stories from experiences they've lived through or heard about. This is not helpful and can make women worry even more.
Mom needs to learn to tune out unhelpful voices and focus on the fact that her experience will be her very own. No one can predict it, and no one has the right to offer a tale to watch mom squirm. Tune out the negative, listen to the doctor, and try to have a calm pregnancy without worrying about the birth experience.
2 Don't Give Up
It's okay if mom needs to have a C-section or chooses to because she feels it's the best option. However, the mom who truly desires a v-delivery shouldn't give up without a fight. Just because a doctor says a C-section is possible or that the pregnancy may require it doesn't mean it's a decided situation.
Mom should hold out hope until there is no other choice but a C-section, if it comes to that. She shouldn't despair because things can change quickly in any pregnancy, and she may end up with the delivery she desires. Hold out hope.
1 Find a Visual Way to Release Concerns
There are some worries that are so persistent they won't seem to leave. If this happens to mom about the C-section, it can help to find a physical way, a visual way, to release these worries. Write down all the concerns and then put the paper in the shredder. Write down the concerns and tie them to balloons, letting them go into the sky.
This simple act of seeing the worries disappear can help clear mom's head. In the end, there's often not a lot mom can do to avoid a C-section if there is no other safe way to get the baby out. Worrying about it won't help.
Sources: Parents.com, Fitpregnancy.com, Parenting.com