Whether or not you are planning on having a cesarean, I believe that 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 completely unpredictable. We can never guarantee exactly what will happen and with a cesarean birth rate of over 30% in the U.S., (roughly one in every three babies are born via c-section) the chances of being one of those couples is high. Whatever the case may be, if you are one of those couples that need a c-section, the very first thing that you must do is remind yourself that cesarean birth is still giving birth! It should still be celebrated because you are bringing life into the world. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Whether it is planned or unplanned, you need to focus on how to have a great and satisfying birth experience and you can have that with a cesarean birth! So say goodbye to the haters and shamers. Today, we’re focusing on ways to have a satisfying and positive birth experience if you find yourself needing a cesarean section.
1. Be An Active Participant
Just as you would educate yourself about the choices you have for a vaginal birth, you should do the same with a c-section. You may think that there aren’t that many options available to you, 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’d expected or planned.
2. Learn to Fully Relax
I’ve been told by many birth professionals that, “Birth does not happen between the legs, it happens between the ears.” Our minds are incredibly powerful and the more prepared and relaxed we are (mind and body), the better the experience will be (for our minds and bodies). This applies to both vaginal and cesarean births.
There are many different ways that you can incorporate relaxation into your cesarean birth. You could bring essential oils, meditate, focus on your breathing and visualizations, have music playing, etc. All of these tools have been proven to be effective when calming anxieties.
3. Hire a Doula
Most people may think that doulas are only helpful to families that have vaginal births. This is not true! A doula can also be a huge help in the OR for a family. Doulas are able to comfort, explain, distract, calm and answer questions for couples who are feeling uncertain or nervous. They can be a calming presence that will stay with you pre-op, during surgery and post-op. Doctors and nurses are busy doing their very important jobs so they won’t necessarily have the time to calmly explain each detail and calm your fears. A doula can do that.
For most c-sections that are planned and discussed (non-emergencies), your doula should be allowed in the OR with you and your partner. To be on the safe side, be sure to 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 girl friends, go get a blow out, and/or have an amazing dinner with your partner the night before your baby’s birth. Before walking into that hospital you should feel relaxed, loved and ready to meet your baby. This is your day so make it special!
5. Introduce Yourself
When you arrive at the hospital preparing for surgery, ask to meet each person in the OR before surgery begins. Having this time to meet everyone by name and understanding what their role is during your baby’s birth is an easy and beautiful way to humanize this (what is normally a) clinical experience. C-sections are performed every day 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 you are about to meet your baby. Meeting the people around you will allow you to feel a little more relaxed and safer with you and your baby in their hands.
6. 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 ask for this just to be on the safe side. By doing this, it will ensure that your bottom area will be numb so when they insert the bladder catheter you won’t be uncomfortable or in pain.
7. Ask to Have Your Arms Free
Many women don’t know that when you are having a c-section the medical staff may strap down both of your arms flat beside you. With the medications that you are given, you could possibly have the shakes and/or lift your arms and hit the sanitized screen. Some doctors take precaution and strap down their patients’ arms to prevent any of that from happening. If you are uncomfortable with this, you can ask to have your arms free, or at least have one free.
8. Play Music
Did you know that 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 pick calm and/or happy music. I’ve heard some interesting playlists though. haha! Music is a great distraction to have, and it also can help set the mood and the energy in the room during your baby’s birth. (You may have to bring/ wear your earbuds if you can’t have the music played out loud.)
9. Say a Prayer and/or Meditate
Pre-op is usually the time when women become the most anxious and nervous. Before things begin, take a moment with your partner to say a prayer, or read some positive birth affirmations or mantras. This can help calm your mind.
10. Take Pictures
I’m all about capturing this special time in your lives. You can never relive those first precious moments again and having those photos are priceless. You can hire a birth photographer to take photos for you, or you can have your doula help you with pictures. Having a designated person (besides your partner) capture the emotions and love from both of you welcoming your child into the world is an incredible gift.
11. Do You Want a Play-by-Play or Not?
Some women find it helpful and reassuring knowing what is 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 is going on or not. Most people do prefer a 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 for you to ask ahead of time that they let you know what is going on with your body and your baby throughout the procedure. In these moments, it’s all about you!
12. Have the Screen Lowered
I’m not talking about seeing the surgery, I’m talking about being able to see your baby be born once he/she is lifted up. You don’t want them to immediately whisk your baby to the warmer if they don’t have to. Being able to see your little boy or girl is a magical moment so have them lower the screen a bit!
13. Have Your Partner Participate
Your partner can still participate in the c-section as well. He can talk to you and keep you calm when your nerves are heightened, he can hold your hand, he can announce the gender of the baby once the baby is born (if you don’t know it already), and he can cut the cord. If he wants to cut the cord, the doctor will normally cut it first but leave the cord long so that dad can do a ceremonial cut closer to your baby’s belly. Just make sure that you remind your OB about these preferences on your birthing day. These choices may be something that you want to add on your birth plan!
It’s been proven that there are many benefits of immediate skin-to-skin for both the mother and baby. As long as you and baby are doing well and are healthy, the nurse can help place your baby on your chest after delivery so that you can see, smell, snuggle, speak to, and breastfeed your baby. The medical staff may even be able to perform baby’s first exam on your chest, if you would like.
15. Stitches, Staples or Dermabond
You want to know what your doctor typically uses during the repair of a c-section. Some doctors use stitches, others use staples and some use Dermabond. Do you research to see which you prefer and discuss this with your doctor ahead of time.
16. Keep Your Baby With You
If it is possible, ask your doctor that they keep your baby with you immediately after your baby is born during the repair. It’s best if baby can stay with you in the OR, go with you to your recovery room, and go with you to your postpartum room. It’s when women are separated from their babies and partner when they become upset, anxious, worried and unsatisfied with their birth experience. If your baby and husband must to go to the NICU, have someone can stay with you to keep you company and keep you calm.
17. Get Breastfeeding Help
The medication(s) that are used to keep you numb during your c-section can block the rush of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” that women normally experience after a vaginal birth. This is why immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are especially important with a cesarean birth. However, breastfeeding can be extremely difficult right after surgery. Ask your doula or one of the nurses that has breastfeeding knowledge/experience if she can help you find ways to stay comfortable while getting a good latch.
18. Alternate Between Resting & Moving
You just had a baby (and had surgery) so it’s really important that you get as much rest as you can in the hospital. (Essentially, try to sleep when the baby sleeps.) You also want to start moving slowly as soon as the anesthesia wears off. Move your legs and once you’re allowed, starting walking around to help prevent blood clots. Motion helps get your bowels going, helps your recovery, and eliminates the gas from your abdominal surgery. Just make sure that you don’t over do it and push yourself too hard!
19. Have Extra Help at Home
Something that I feel all mothers after giving birth should have (especially mothers that had c-sections) is extra support and help at home. You just had major abdominal surgery. You have to heal and recover, and you have the demands of taking care of a newborn. You also aren’t allowed to lift anything heavier than your baby, you’re not allowed to walk up flights of stairs, or drive a car. You need the extra help! Whether it’s your family, friends or a trained postpartum doula, having an extra set of hands to help you take care of you, 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 births, whether c-section or vaginal, and be truly happy and satisfied with their babies’ births. If you have any other tips that you would like to share, please do in the comments below! Happy birthing, mamas!