Whether you may be having a scheduled cesarean section or experience an emergency one, there is sure to be a slew of emotions involved. Not only is a c-section considered major surgery, but it also may not be what you had hoped for your baby’s birth in the first place.
Perhaps you wanted a natural delivery with minimal pain medication or had your heart set on a water birth. And then an unexpected turn of events occurs, leading to a change in those carefully laid out plans. While this can be common — nearly one-third of all deliveries are performed via cesarean section — feelings of sadness and disappointment may arise. The important thing to note is that you bravely brought life into this world by delivering a baby — you did not fail — and there is endless strength and beauty in that.
What Exactly Is a C-Section?
A c-section can either be planned (based on a medical condition, the baby’s position or a previous c-section) or emergency (if the baby’s or mother’s health is at risk during labor). After you receive an IV for fluids and local anesthesia, your doctor will make an incision in your abdomen and another one in your uterus while you are alert and awake — though a sterile curtain placed at your waist will keep you from viewing the surgery. You may feel some slight pulling, tugging and pressure as the baby is eased out. After your baby is born, your doctor will remove the placenta and stitch or tape the incision.
Why Have a C-Section?
There are numerous reasons why cesarean sections take place, whether they are planned or otherwise. Such as:
- You’ve had a previous c-section or other surgeries on your uterus that may increase your risk of pregnancy complications.
- Issues with the placenta, such as placenta previa, that may cause dangerous bleeding during vaginal delivery.
- Infections such as HIV or genital herpes that are at risk of being passed on to your baby during vaginal birth.
- A medical condition that could make vaginal birth risky.
- Your baby is measuring very large, is in a difficult position for vaginal delivery or you are pregnant with multiples.
- The umbilical cord is pinched or prolapsed (when the cord slips into the vagina before the baby).
- Your baby has certain birth defects or is struggling from a lack of oxygen or an irregular heartbeat.
- Your labor is progressing too slowly or stops entirely.
- Maternal hemorrhage or distress.
C-Section Recovery and Care
Following a cesarean, you can expect to spend a minimum of two or three days in the hospital with your baby as you recover. If you are awake during the procedure, you should be able to hold (and even feed) your baby almost immediately after birth. You will be transferred to your room where your blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing will be monitored, and you will be administered pain medication periodically.
While you should get out of bed and walk a bit within 24 hours after surgery, it is crucial to take it easy — don’t lift anything heavier than your baby throughout the first couple of weeks, and you may be advised against driving for several days. Support your stomach when you sneeze, cough or laugh to avoid disrupting the incision. A postpartum binder can also provide additional support, while a heating pad, warm washcloth and certain pain relievers can also help alleviate any discomfort. Definitely call your doctor if you get a fever higher than 100.4 degrees or if the incision turns red, gets swollen or feels hot.
In the days and weeks after surgery, you will likely experience many things that women who have vaginal deliveries go through. This includes vaginal discharge and bleeding, which is perfectly normal — this is how your body emits the extra tissue and blood in your uterus that kept your baby healthy in utero. You may also have afterpains that feel like menstrual cramps, as well as breast swelling and soreness as your milk comes in. Hair and skin changes may also occur due to fluctuating hormone levels, along with what some call the “baby blues” — feelings of worry, depression or anxiety. If those feelings don’t subside after a week or two, speak to your doctor, as it could lead to postpartum depression. Hold off on working out or engaging in intercourse for approximately six weeks after birth, and get your doctor’s okay before doing so.
Contact Beaches OBGYN at (904) 241-9775 for more information on labor and delivery or to schedule an appointment.