I was convinced I would have a smooth and straightforward birth when pregnant with my first baby. There would be no stitches, no need for forceps, and gas and air would do just fine, thank you very much. There most certainly would not be a c-section.
I was so convinced that there would be no complications or decisions to be made that I did not prepare myself for any eventuality other than giving birth the old-fashioned way. I was so very wrong, and in my ignorance, as I was wheeled to the theatre and brought through the motions, I realised I was completely unprepared for this emergency caesarean section that was a matter of urgency.
My advice, know what to expect. So, what can you expect from a caesarean section?
- While c-sections are lifesaving interventions, they can come with risks. It's important to voice your concerns about the possibility of a section with your doctor or midwife.
- In theatre, there will be plenty of people around. An obstetrician will perform the surgery with a team of theatre assistants, midwives, an anaesthetist, and others to care for you and the baby.
- Most women will receive an epidural or spinal block to numb the body to perform the section. This anaesthesia allows you to remain awake so you will still see and hold your baby straight after delivery. The anaesthetist will test to see if you can feel anything, often with an ice cube.
- You will be given a catheter to help you urinate as you will not be able to walk around for several hours after the section. You may need help to move about, walk, or use the bathroom as the anaesthesia wears off.
- You will also be given a drip for fluids and antibiotics, and you will be lying on your back with your arms on arm boards to monitor you and adjust your IV if necessary. There will also be a drape or curtain between your upper and lower body.
- Before the surgery, your abdomen will be washed with an antiseptic solution.
- The surgeon/obstetrician will make a horizontal decision about two fingers' breadth above the pubic bone.
- You will feel movement and pressure as your baby is born. My obstetrician referred to it as "someone rooting around in your pocket", which is an oddly perfect way of describing the sensation of movement without feeling or pain.
- Your baby will be born in as little as ten minutes, depending on the circumstance. The rest of the surgery is closing the incision, which may take about half an hour.
- Gentle walking after a c-section can help your mobility, and you will gradually notice you are more mobile daily.
- You can still breastfeed after a c-section, and you will be given support in helping the baby latch.
- There may be pain in the incision area for the first 24 hours after birth, and you may experience pain in waves or at different levels for up to 24 weeks afterwards.
- Driving is not recommended for the first six weeks after a section, and normal exercise can be resumed 6 to 8 weeks after.
- Every person will recover in their own way and in their own time from a caesarean section. Set reasonable expectations about your recovery and always ask for help when needed.