19 Tips for Having a Positive Cesarean Birth Experience
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19 Tips for Having a Positive Cesarean Birth Experience

Explore 19 tips to follow before, during, and after your C-section for a more satisfying and positive cesarean birth experience.

Updated July 9, 2024

by Nina Spears

The Baby Chick®: Pregnancy, Birth & Postpartum Expert
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Whether or not you plan on having a cesarean, I believe it’s always a good idea for every expectant couple to understand the process and recovery of a C-section. Pregnancy, labor, and birth are entirely unpredictable. We can never guarantee exactly what will happen, and with a cesarean birth rate of 32.1% in the United States (roughly 1 in every 3 babies is born via C-section), the chances of being one of those couples are high.1

Whatever the case, if you are one of those couples that needs a C-section, you must first remind yourself that cesarean birth is still giving birth! It should still be celebrated because you’re bringing life into this world. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! Whether you have a planned or unplanned C-section, you need to focus on having a great and satisfying birth experience, which you can absolutely have with a cesarean birth! So, say goodbye to the haters and shamers. Today, we’re focusing on ways to have a satisfying and positive cesarean birth experience if you find yourself needing one.

Before Your C-Section

It can be helpful to do the following before your C-section:

1. Be an Active Participant

Just as you would educate yourself about your choices for a vaginal birth, you should do the same with a C-section. You may think there aren’t many options available, but there are! This is your birth, your body, and your baby. The more involved you are in making informed decisions that affect your birth experience, the more likely you will have a satisfying birth, even if it’s not what you expected or planned.3

2. Learn To Fully Relax

Many birth professionals have told me, “Birth does not happen between the legs; it happens between the ears.” Birth has a mental aspect, and our minds are incredibly powerful.5 The more prepared and relaxed we are (mind and body), the better the experience (for our minds and bodies). This applies to both vaginal and cesarean births.

You can incorporate relaxation into your cesarean birth in many different ways. For example, you could bring essential oils, meditate, focus on your breathing and visualizations, have music playing, etc. All these tools are effective in calming anxieties.6,7,8

3. Hire a Doula

Most people may think that doulas are only helpful to families having vaginal births. This is not true! A doula can also be a huge help during a cesarean birth for a family. Doulas can comfort, distract, and calm uncertain or nervous couples, as well as explain and answer questions. They can be a calming presence and stay with you pre-op, during surgery, and post-op.4 Doctors and nurses are busy doing their critical jobs, so they won’t necessarily have the time to explain each detail and calm your fears. A doula can do that!

For most planned and discussed (non-emergencies) C-sections, your doula should be allowed in the operating room (OR) with you and your partner. To be safe, tell your OB that you would like your doula to be in the operating room with you and your partner and how important it is for her to be there. Your doctors have the power to make sure that it happens.

4. Pamper Yourself

Before the big day, take the time to treat yourself! Get a manicure and pedicure with your girlfriends, get a blowout, and/or have an amazing dinner with your partner the night before your baby’s birth. Before walking into the hospital, you should feel relaxed, loved, and ready to meet your baby. This is your day, so make it special!

During Your C-Section

Here are my tips to follow once it’s time for your C-section:

1. Introduce Yourself

When you arrive at the hospital preparing for surgery, ask to meet each person in the OR before the surgery begins. Having this time to meet everyone by name and understand their role during your baby’s birth is an easy and beautiful way to humanize this (usually) clinical experience. C-sections are performed daily, so this small practice can create a connection and remind the staff that you aren’t just another surgery. You are a woman with feelings and about to meet your baby. Meeting the people around you will make you feel a little more relaxed and safer with you and your baby in their hands.

2. Ask About the Bladder Catheter

Most of the time, the hospital staff will wait to insert the bladder catheter after the epidural or spinal is placed, but you should ask for this just to be safe. This ensures that your bottom area will be numb, so you won’t be uncomfortable or in pain when they insert the bladder catheter.

3. Ask To Have Your Arms Free

Many women don’t know that when you’re having a C-section, the medical staff may strap down both of your arms flat beside you. With the medications you’re given, you could have the shakes and/or lift your arms and hit the sanitized screen. Some doctors take precautions and strap down their patients’ arms to prevent any of that from happening. If you’re uncomfortable with this, you can ask to have your arms free or at least have one free.

4. Play Music

Did you know you can create a playlist for your C-section? That’s right! I recommend picking different songs to play before surgery, during surgery, and immediately after birth. Most people prefer calm and/or happy music. I’ve heard some interesting playlists, though, haha! Music is a great distraction, and it can help set the mood and energy in the room during your baby’s birth. (Note: You may have to bring/wear your earbuds if you can’t have the music played out loud.)

5. Say a Prayer and/or Meditate

Pre-op is usually the time when women become the most anxious and nervous. So, before things begin, take a moment with your partner to pray or read some positive birth affirmations or mantras. This can help calm your mind.7,9

6. Take Pictures

I’m all about capturing this special time in your lives! You can never relive those first precious moments again, so having those photos is priceless. You can hire a birth photographer or ask your doula to help you with pictures. Having a designated person (besides your partner) capture the emotions and love of both of you welcoming your child into the world is an incredible gift.

7. Decide if You Want a Play-by-Play

Some women find it helpful and reassuring to know what’s happening during their C-section. Others don’t want to know all the details. Think about it, and determine whether you want a play-by-play of what’s happening. Most people don’t prefer play-by-play since (sometimes) the medical staff can talk about other things that aren’t so warm and fuzzy (like what they did that weekend, what other surgeries they have scheduled for the day, their last golf game, etc.). Remember, this surgery is routine for them. It’s okay to ask them beforehand to tell you what’s happening with your body and baby throughout the procedure. In these moments, it’s all about you!

8. Have the Screen Lowered

I’m not talking about seeing the surgery. I’m talking about seeing your baby be born once they’re lifted up. You don’t want them to immediately whisk your baby to the warmer if they don’t have to. Seeing your little boy or girl is a magical moment, so have them lower the screen a bit!

9. Have Your Partner Participate

Your partner can still participate in the C-section as well. They can talk to you, keep you calm when your nerves are heightened, hold your hand, announce the gender of the baby once the baby is born (if you don’t know it already), and cut the cord. If your partner wants to cut the cord, the doctor will typically cut it first but leave the cord long so that your partner can do a ceremonial cut closer to baby’s belly. Make sure you remind your OB about these preferences on your birthing day. These choices may be something you want to add to your cesarean birth plan!

10. Do Skin-to-Skin

It’s been proven that there are many benefits of immediate skin-to-skin for both the mother and baby.2 As long as you and your baby are doing well and are healthy, the nurse can help place your baby on your chest after delivery so you can see, smell, snuggle, speak to, and breastfeed your little one. The medical staff may even perform baby’s first exam on your chest if you’d like.

11. Decide on Stitches, Staples, or Dermabond

You want to know what your doctor typically uses during the repair of a C-section. For example, some doctors use stitches, others use staples, and some use Dermabond. Do some research to determine which you prefer, and discuss this with your doctor beforehand.

After Your C-Section

Finally, here are some tips for your C-section recovery:

1. Keep Your Baby With You

If possible, ask your doctor to keep your baby with you immediately after they’re born during the repair. It’s best if baby can stay with you in the operating room, go with you to your recovery room, and go with you to your postpartum room. In my experience, when women are separated from their babies and partner, they become upset, anxious, worried, and unsatisfied with their birth experience. If your baby and partner must go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), have someone stay with you to keep you company and keep you calm.

2. Get Breastfeeding Help

The medication(s) used to keep you numb during your C-section can block the rush of oxytocin, the “love hormone” that women usually experience after vaginal birth.2,13,15 This is why immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are essential with a cesarean birth.16 However, breastfeeding can be challenging right after cesarean surgery.15 Ask your doula or one of the nurses with breastfeeding knowledge/experience if they can help you find ways to stay comfortable while getting a good latch.

3. Alternate Between Resting and Moving

You just had a baby (and surgery), so you must get as much rest as possible in the hospital. (Essentially, try to sleep when baby sleeps.) You also want to start moving slowly as soon as the anesthesia wears off. Move your legs, and once you’re allowed, start walking around to help prevent blood clots. Motion helps get your bowels going and your recovery and eliminates the gas from your abdominal surgery.14 Just make sure you don’t overdo it and push yourself too hard!

4. Have Extra Help at Home

After giving birth, all mothers (especially mothers who had C-sections) should have extra support and help at home. You just had major abdominal surgery!10 Now, you’re supposed to heal and recover while handling the demands of caring for a newborn. You also aren’t allowed to lift anything heavier than your baby, walk up flights of stairs, or drive a car.11,12 These are reasons why you need extra help! Whether it’s your family, some friends, your partner, or a trained postpartum doula, having an extra set of hands to help you take care of yourself, help with the baby, and help around the house is the best gift of all.

I hope these tips help you have the best cesarean birth experience possible! I want all women to be able to look back at their babies’ births, whether C-section or vaginal, and be truly happy and satisfied with them. If you have any other tips, please share them with us! Happy birthing, mamas!

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Nina Spears The Baby Chick®: Pregnancy, Birth & Postpartum Expert
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Nina is The Baby Chick® & Editor-in-Chief of Baby Chick®. She received her baby planning certification in early 2011 and began attending births that same year. Since then, Nina has… Read more

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