Unless you’ve done it before, it can be hard to know how to prepare for a C-section. Fortunately, a little advance planning (if you’re having a scheduled C-section) can help make things go more smoothly.

If you are having a planned C-section, you will be asked to not eat or drink anything prior to your surgery. When you arrive, your baby will be monitored, and you will have your vital signs checked. You’ll meet your nurse, get an IV, have blood work, and sign a surgical consent. Other people you’ll meet include your doctor (and possibly residents/medical students) and someone from the anesthesia team.

Often a spinal or epidural is used during a C-section so you can be comfortable but awake. This is usually done in the operating room, and while this is happening your support partner (usually only one is allowed in the OR with you) will wait outside. Once it is placed and your belly has been cleaned and the sterile drapes have been placed, your partner can come in.

The delivery of your baby is usually the quickest part of the surgery. After he or she is out, the pediatric team will check your baby and then bring the baby over to meet you. Be sure to take pictures of your new family! Depending on the hospital policy, your baby will either stay with you in the operating room or go to the recovery room with your partner until you are ready.

Once in the recovery room, your nurse will monitor you and your pain closely. This is perfect time to start nursing or do skin-to-skin with your new baby. If you plan to breastfeed, be sure to ask for tips about comfortable positions for nursing after a C-section.

After a while, you’ll go to your postpartum room. Visitors can usually see you at this point, but do consider if you are ready or if you need some rest. A catheter will likely still be in your bladder to help keep it empty, so at least you don’t have to worry about going to the bathroom.

Over the next day your IV will be disconnected, your catheter will come out, you’ll eat regular food, and you’ll start walking around. These are all important steps in recovery. It is important to make sure you take your pain medication so you are comfortable enough to do these things and care for your baby.

Most women go home after 2-4 days. You’ll be given thorough instructions of what to do and what to avoid. It is important to not do heavy lifting or have sex for about six weeks. Each day you’ll feel stronger and more like yourself, but you should never be afraid to call your doctor if you don’t feel like your recovery is going as planned.

Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020


  • A spinal or epidural is usually used during a C-section so you can be awake for your baby’s arrival.
  • Usually one support person is allowed in the operating room with you.
  • After your surgery, it is important to take your pain medication to help with your recovery.


  1. The American College of Obstetricians/Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Birth. 4th ed.


  1. Be sure to talk with your OB/GYN and state your desire to have a horizontal incision.
    Not as painful , recovery is quicker.

    I read that with a C-section the delivery is the quickest part……Well no not always the case.
    After my OB made the incision, I lay there on table for just over an hour. Forceps were used, a vacumm, 2 nurses were told to put all their weight on abdomen and push…very uncomfortable, OB could not reach my son, so I went through these different attempts over and over.
    I would like to know why an operation that should take minutes took over an hour?

    1. Hi Karenna, Your C-section sounds like it was extremely difficult, and without knowing the details of your delivery it may have been because you had pushed for a long time and he was wedged in your pelvis and therefor hard to deliver, or he was very large and also hard to get out, or your size or scar tissue (from past surgeries etc) made the surgery more technically challenging. I would say your delivery is definitely not the norm so it sounds like there were other factors at play, and I hope both you and baby got some R&R afterwards!!

      Also about the type of skin incision: an up and down (or vertical) skin incision is only rarely used in the United states anymore. It is really only used in case of extreme emergency, if the woman already has a scar there, there is another surgery happening at the same time where that type of incision is needed, or a woman is obese enough where putting the scar lower puts it at risk for infection. You are right, they are definitely harder to recover from!

    1. Yes, constipation related to narcotic medication is definitely something that can hurt! Some women do find the increase in fiber (if they haven’t been doing it already) causes too much gas which leads to bad gas pain, but others tolerate it just fine. Bottom line: don’t wait ’till it gets bad and ask your provider for something stronger to help you go!

      I think the take-home about pain medications is not to find that balance between good pain control (so you are comfortable enough to walk, get out of bed etc) – not too little where it hurts too much to move, and not too much where you are out of it and loopy. It definitely affects people differently, so it can be trial and error!

    1. I am glad to hear your second one was better! Many women find the recovery harder if they were in labor and ended up with a C-section as opposed to those who have a scheduled one, but either way it is no walk in the park!

      1. That is exactly what happened with my first one. I labored all day, pushed for over an hour, then ended up having a c section. It was exhausting!


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