Caesarean Deliveries – What to Expect

All of my deliveries were caesarians for various reasons. After having had 3 in 3 years (not something I recommend), I feel I know enough to pass on some tips in case you need them.

Knowing what to expect before a caesarian makes it much easier to experience. When my first one happened, I was unprepared. I had never planned to have one; I was always against them unless they were necessary, and I was sure I would never need one. In truth, I was scared of the surgery, of being awake while it was happening, afraid something would go wrong, so I made the mistake of not planning ahead. I only read up on natural deliveries and skipped over most info on caesarians. I had a basic idea of what would happen but no details.

Logan was born by emergency caesarian at 33 weeks in utero. My waterbag broke one morning, but nothing else happened. My doctor tried to encourage labor but it never happened. I just lay there with all the water leaking out, no labor, my baby motionless (he did have a strong heartbeat). (See the page Logan’s Story for full details of this experience.) I went into labor with Lila, but progress was slow and my doctor was concerned since she had already passed meconium, and so recommended the repeat caesarian. Scarlett’s birth was planned, again due to my doctor’s concerns. I was also able to get a tubal ligation performed at the same time to avoid another surgery later.

As a side note, I should mention that I live in India and all my children have been born here. Some of what I experienced may be different from what would happen in another country, so it is important that you take all your questions to your doctor to find out if they do a certain thing or not.

So here are some things you can expect.

– You will be preped for major surgery: pubic area shaved, an enema administered, catheter inserted, IV inserted in your arm, and hair will be tied up or covered. They will request that you remove jewelry in advance and you are not allowed any makeup, including nail polish. (I wasn’t aware of this last one, so since I was in the hospital the night before for my last delivery, I had planned on doing my nails so they would look nice while I was there. The nurses caught me and took it off. The reason is that a change in nail color during surgery can indicate a problem.) You will be dressed in a hospital gown.

– On entering the surgery room, you will be given a spinal anesthetic. This is so you can be awake and see the baby as soon as it is born. The spinal works quickly, so you will be turned over fast, arms strapped to the table, blood pressure and heartbeat monitors attached, and an oxygen mask put on you.

I was always most nervous at this point. I was aware of what was going on and scared at the same time. With my third delivery, my anesthesiologist kept talking to me and telling me what was going on, which helped me to not be so nervous. He even gave me sips of water when my mouth got so dry a few times. He told me when the baby was coming out and that it was a girl. Then he let me know when they were going to give me the sedative so I could sleep through the stitching. He was like an angel, helping me focus and relax through the whole thing. When I woke up from the sedative and he wasn’t there any more, the room just didn’t feel the same.

– Your baby will be delivered within ten minutes of you getting the anesthetic. This is because after that time, it will reach the baby’s bloodstream and could cause problems. The baby will be shown to you before heading off to the nursery, or to your spouse or whoever is with you. Some places do allow someone to be with you for the delivery, but here it is not allowed.

– Once the baby is out, you will be given a sedative so that you can sleep through the rest of the procedure. I always woke from it still in the delivery room, once everything else was done.

– If you are not given a pain killer shortly after returning to your room, then ask for one, because as soon as the spinal wears off, you will experience immense pain from the incision.

With my first two deliveries, I didn’t have this happen. My guess is that either they gave me a painkiller without my knowledge, or else it was that I slept soon after getting to my room and slept through it, since I got a sedative upon entering the room.

But my third delivery was in the early morning. I didn’t get the sedative, and the pain, once it started, was unbearable. My mother-in-law almost had to beg the nurses to give me something as they weren’t paying much attention to my state. That has got to be the worse pain I’ve ever had.

– The time when they get you up post-delivery seems to vary from place to place. With my first two, I got up after 36 hours (two nights and one day resting), and with the third, 48 hours (two full days). After 48 hours my back was so sore. It may have helped to have the bed up, but I didn’t think about it at the time.

While you are resting, you will still receive the I.V and won’t be allowed food until it comes off. Usually they will allow some liquid after the first 12 hours or so but not immediately, to avoid vomiting. I always found myself so thirsty during this time, so as long as my stomach felt fine, I would have a sip of water every so often, and I never had a problem.

– The first time you use the toilet after you get up will be tough. Movement will be uncomfortable and painful. Get a painkiller before you get up; it helps alot. But just because you are allowed up doesn’t mean you should now stay up. Don’t tire yourself. Rest most of the time, only getting up when you have to. Have someone help you with the baby for diaper changes and feeding. Having someone to feed the baby at night so you can sleep is a big help too. Nap as much as you can in the day.

– The length of your hospital stay will also vary depending on where you are. I stayed 5 days with each delivery.

– Once you get home, take it easy. I can’t stress how important this is. You have just had major surgery so you must go slow. Don’t get into housework, no matter what condition your house is in. The most important thing is your recovery. If you have other children, you will need someone to help you with them. If you try to care for them as usual, you will not only wear yourself out, but you run the risk of your scar opening up, getting infected, and in serious cases, having to be opened, cleaned, and restitched, which will result in you being out of commission even longer.

You will need 2 to 3 weeks of complete rest before you should slowly get back into your regular routine. And I do mean slowly! Don’t think you will be able to pick up the pace overnight. You will also be exhausted from caring for your baby at all hours, adjusting to nursing and your baby’s erratic sleep schedule. Do whatever will make this time of adjustment easier, whether it means having fulltime help from relatives, hiring help, having your meals delivered, etc.

– Full recovery will take several months, since the inner scar takes longer to heal than the outer one. Avoid lifting heavy things. If you are not ready for sex after 6 to 8 weeks, it’s ok. Even if your doctor has said you can, go by what your body is telling you. The scar area will still be sensitive for months to come and sex may be painful. If so, explain to your husband how you are feeling so that he understands. (Mine is still sensitive after 6 months, and I can’t take any pressure on it, like having my toddler run into it with her head, for at least a year afterwards. I think having had that part of me cut 3 times in 3 years makes the sensitivity last longer.) Discuss with your doctor when you can resume your exercise routine, and take it slow. The better you recover from this delivery, the better your overall health will be.

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