If you are pregnant and know you are going to be delivering by a cesarean section, it can be helpful to plan ahead for what your baby’s birthday is going to look like. Having the advantage of knowing you are going to be having surgery can get you a step ahead when it comes to knowing what to expect and how to prepare, both physically and mentally. Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for your C-section.
Get it on the books!
The majority of C-sections are not scheduled until your baby is 39 weeks along, but some are done sooner for medical reasons. Either way, most doctors will schedule their patients for delivery months before the actual delivery date, that way the time on Labor and Delivery is reserved just for you. So don’t be shy about asking to get it scheduled ahead of time so you can feel prepared.
…But understand things don’t always go as planned.
Many scheduled C-sections happen earlier or later than their planned day or time. If you go into labor ahead of time, your C-section will be done then. If you have a C-section scheduled at 8 a.m. but overnight every pregnant woman in the city came into Labor and Delivery, yours may be pushed back a few hours (or a day). Try to be understanding if this happens. Think of this perspective: it is always better to be the patient who can wait rather than the one who needs an emergency procedure!
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor what the surgery will entail.
When you and your doctor are discussing your C-section, ask him or her to walk you through it from beginning to end. Ask him who will be helping, what type of anesthesia will be used, and what you can expect in terms of how long the procedure will take. No questions are silly when it comes to understanding how you are going to give birth.
Know what your recovery will look like.
A great way to be prepared for your recovery is to ask for your postoperative instructions ahead of time, so you can know what you can do and what you need to avoid. After a C-section, women are advised to avoid heavy lifting and driving while taking narcotic pain medicine, so think if you might need to plan to have some help at home. Most doctors will wait until 6 weeks for the all-clear for sex and exercise, and knowing this ahead of time can help set expectations.
Follow your surgical team’s preoperative instructions.
Your doctor and anesthesia team will tell you how long you should avoid eating or drinking anything before your surgery—be sure to listen to this! You might think a glass of water or a bite of eggs is no big deal before heading to the hospital, but it will most likely delay your C-section because of the risk of having food in your stomach while having surgery. Follow any and all instructions your team gives you so you can have the safest delivery possible.
Think about ways to make the operating room more welcoming. You might be giving birth in an operating room, but it doesn’t have to feel completely sterile! Bring your smartphone with a music list ready to go (tranquil music is always wonderful, but pick anything that makes you happy). Feel free to dab some peppermint essential on your neck if that scent calms you down.
Get your technology lined up.
Most women are allowed to have one person with her in the operating room when she gives birth. That support person’s role is to do just that—support the mom—but they are also the default photographers! Make sure your support person has his or her phone or camera ready to go (with a charged battery). Tell them to take photos and ask the anesthesia or nursing team to take that first family photo once baby is born—that will be a picture you won’t want to miss.
Make sure your hospital offers skin-to-skin in the operating room.
We know skin-to-skin in that first hour after birth is so important for a new baby, and delivering by C-section is no reason to skip it. Ask your doctor to make sure this will be an option for you.
Let family and friends know what to expect.
Some well-meaning friends and family may think they will get to see you and meet the new baby very shortly after birth, but most hospitals have a policy of no visitors (or very limited visiting) in the hours right after having a C-section. This makes sense, given that you have just had major surgery and need to be watched closely. Make sure your loved ones know this so they don’t feel ignored or have hurt feelings when they are told they need to wait.
Prepare for help well before your baby arrives.
Not only will you be adjusting to life with a new baby, you will also be healing from a major abdominal surgery. Plan for help before you deliver! Get the freezer stocked, or line up meal deliveries. Outsource whatever you can, and if friends ask what they can do have a running list of chores you’d like done. Don’t be shy about letting people know you are tired and need a hand.
Don’t get constipated!
Being constipated after surgery might be one of the painful aspects of recovery. Make sure you are sent home with stool softeners and have a list of things you can do to avoid this – or even better, have them at home before you deliver so they are ready for you if you need them. Drink plenty of water and eat high fiber foods. Trust us, you’ll thank us for this tip!
- Knowing what to expect from your C-section can help you feel readier and in control.
- Understand that your scheduled delivery date and time might need to be flexible.
- Make sure you understand what to expect with your recovery ahead of time so you can be mentally prepared.