How to Prepare for a C-Section

Cesarean delivery (C-section), usually planned ahead of time, is a surgical procedure in which your doctor makes incisions in your abdomen and uterus for delivery. Some women opt for a C-section when they have already had it in the past and are not considering vaginal birth. Sometimes, certain complications keep women from going for vaginal birth. In most cases, a C-section becomes necessary while labor is underway. Still, knowing how to prepare for a C-section and what to expect will make things relatively easier. Let's find out more about it.

When Do You Need a C-Section?

Considering the reasons why someone needs a C-section will help you understand when and how to prepare for a C-section. Your doctor is going to recommend a C-section when they believe that it will be safer for you or your baby as compared to a vaginal delivery. Here are some other situations when your doctor might recommend a C-section:

  • Your labor is not progressing. Your doctor opts for a C-section in case of stalled labor in which your cervix does not open even after strong contractions over several hours.
  • Your baby fails to get enough oxygen. You may have to go for a C-section when your doctor is concerned about your baby's heartbeat or oxygen supply.
  • You have multiples. A C-section is a more obvious choice when you are carrying multiples. This is usually when you are more likely to experience pregnancy complications that require early delivery.
  • Your baby's position is not normal. A C-section is usually a better choice when your baby is in a breeched position, with his/her buttocks or feet entering the birth canal first. This is usually the case when you are carrying multiples.
  • You have placental or umbilical cord complications. A C-section is usually the choice when the placenta completely covers the opening of your cervix. Similarly, you may require a C-section if the uterus compresses the umbilical cord during contractions or the cord slips through the cervix.

What's more, your healthcare provider will recommend a C-section if you have any health concerns such as hypertension, complex heart problems, HIV, or genital herpes. Similarly, mechanical obstruction caused by a fibroid may make C-section a much better option as compared to a vaginal delivery.

How to Prepare for a C-Section

In case you have a health condition and you already know you are a good candidate for a C-section, you need to know how and what to prepare for a C-section in advance. Here is what to keep in mind.

1. Packing for Your Stay

You may have to stay in the hospital for 3-5 days after your C-section. It is therefore a good idea to pack some comfortable, soft clothes with warm socks and a couple of cardigan sweaters or zippered sweatshirts. Be sure to include toiletries such as toothbrush and toothpaste, makeup, brush, lotion, and soap. Here is what else to pack before you go for a C-section:

  • Your insurance card, picture ID, and hospital paperwork
  • Your cell phone with a charge and a list of people to call – this helps inform your loved ones about you and your baby's health after delivery.
  • Comfortable bras to wear after delivery – your breast will be swollen and tender and supportive or nursing bras will really help during the first few days after delivery.
  • A notepad and pen – this helps remember your baby's feeding sessions and you can write down any questions you have for your pediatrician or the nurse.
  • A going-home outfit – you need to pack something easy to get into with a pair of comfortable shoes.

Preparing for Surgery

You may experience different procedures in different hospitals, but the basic procedures are usually the same. Soon after arriving at the hospital, you will have to change into a hospital gown and may well be started on an IV. Your abdominal region will be shaved and you may even be administered an enema. Before your surgery, your doctor will order urine and blood tests to look for any medical issues. Your anesthetist will discuss certain options for anesthesia. Be sure to avoid eating or drinking for 8-12 hours before your surgery.

How Long Does It Take to Recover?

Knowing how to prepare for a C-section is important, but you may also be wondering how long it usually takes to recover after your surgery. Your doctor will remove your IV and catheter within 24 hours of your surgery. It is important that you get out of your bed and start moving a bit to promote blood circulation. You may find it difficult but it actually helps you heal quickly. Your healthcare provider will consider your rate of recovery before allowing you to take a shower.

Eating a well-balanced diet after your delivery will also help accelerate recovery. Expect some gas to develop after you return to solid foods but it will get better if you continue to move around. Staying active greatly reduces your recovery period and enables your intestines to start functioning properly.

Taking Care of Yourself after a C-Section

You should take some steps and pay attention to certain things while you are recovering after your surgery. For instance:

  • Be sure to take plenty of rest but do not go overboard with the idea of resting. You need more rest during the first few weeks though. Avoid lifting anything heavy during this time.
  • Use pillows for extra abdominal support – use them while breastfeeding for additional support.
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids to prevent dehydration – you lose fluid while breast-feeding that you need to replace with fluids.
  • Be sure to take your medications as instructed by your doctor – you may have to take acetaminophen or other painkillers for some time after your delivery.
  • Do not engage in vaginal sex for at least 4-6 weeks after your surgery or until your doctor gives you the green light.

What's more, you should see your doctor immediately if you have any signs of infection, such as severe abdominal pain, a high fever, or redness and swelling at your incision site. Contact your doctor if you have other issues such as painful urination, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, breast pain, or heavy bleeding that soaks a napkin in an hour. 

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