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So, you are having a cesarean birth?

What to know about planning a Cesarean birth

What does a C-section generally look like?

I will do my best to paint a picture of what a planned cesarean birth can look like in general. 

Planned meaning you have not had labor at all and are going to the hospital for a scheduled procedure. 

You will be asked to arrive two hours prior to your scheduled surgery. This is to give everyone time to double check that they have everything ready for you, and that you have nothing else that needs to be completed. 

Things they will be doing, checking your blood pressure, starting an IV and running fluids, giving medicine for pain that will start working in your system by the time the surgery is completed, they will double check the position of a baby (for example if baby is no longer in a breech position we could switch gears from surgery). 

Your nurse will be cleaning your belly, and checking the surgical sight, sometimes they need to trim a little along the bikini line. Please don’t shave yourself the night before, as the act of shaving can actually put you at a higher risk of infection due to the small cuts that can be on your skin from razor burn. They will use sterile clippers, and then clean if there is too much hair. 

Your partner will be given a ‘bunny suit.’ This is a large coverall, that makes you look like you are a very large “umpa lumpa” from the chocolate factory. Your partner will be waiting to come into the OR for about 15-20 minutes while they do the spinal and the final prep for surgery. 

Before the baby is born they will be brought into the room.

Baby is usually born within 10-15 mins after surgery has started. At this point, the partner should go to the warmers to say hello to the little one. They are there for just a few minutes before being brought to mama. The goal is to get the whole family together ASAP. Baby’s tend to need a little extra assistance during a surgical birth to clear and open up their lungs. Once that has happened, they are brought to do skin to skin with mama. 

I cannot stress this enough, until that happens the BEST thing that your partner can do is to talk to your baby. Hearing your voice helps them so much, it is something familiar in this bright loud

Do I even have any REAL choices at this point?

In short, YES! You always have a choice and should feel empowered to use your voice. Open the lines of communication between you and your support team. Some good questions to ask at this point are: “What is your normal process?” “Is my doula allowed with me the whole time?” “When can my partner join us?” “How quickly is my baby on my chest?” “How long from start to finish?” 

What are the Options that you can have?

I can personally speak to options that you have locally here in Asheville. But, you can ask at your local hospital what of these options are open to you.

When going in for a scheduled cesarean birth ask about an ensure clear protein drink. Some places will let you have one of those 4 hours prior to surgery, this way you can not feel as hungry heading in.

 Dimming peripheral lights, bringing or playing your favorite kind of music, as well as having your favorite essential oil near you to smell. You can use headphones to block the extra noise if that will help you.

 Can your doula come to the OR with you (before your partner is allowed?). 

Can your doula or partner take pictures?

Do you want your doctor to tell you what is happening, do you care if the team talks ‘shop’ around you, or would you prefer nothing?

How soon do I hold my baby?

Holding your baby soon after their birth will vary greatly depending on the reason for the cesarean birth, as well as how they do. This is a conversation you want to have AS SOON as you know that this will be the route of delivery for you. 

Here are some things to consider, if possible would you like the staff to have your baby skin to skin with you right away? Do you want your baby to be placed on your skin slimy ( not dried or burritoed).

Babies born this way often need a little extra help to clear their lungs of the amniotic fluid, and therefore need to go to the warmer in the OR for a little additional care before being brought to you. 

Once your baby is on you, you can snuggle, talk, love on, and nurse if they show interest. Your nurse is able to help you make that happen if that is important to you.

What about Partner?

What support is there for your partner? How long with they need to wait in pre-op or in your labor room? This is sometimes 15 minutes and sometimes 20-30 minutes. It is very much dependent on the hospital and when they are comfortable with bringing you into the OR.

When you (partner) are waiting your job is to gather all of your stuff and make sure that it is packed and ready to be moved.

Use the restroom before putting on your OR coveralls, make sure that you have your phone or camera accessible to you. You can call someone if that will help you with your wait, just don’t go on a walk-about while on the phone. I have worked with some nervous pacers who nearly missed their baby’s birth because the medical staff couldn’t find them when they were sent to bring them to the OR.

Wrapping up

The surgery will last about an hour to an hour and a half, it is very much depending on the surgical staff. Your baby will be born within the first 15 minutes, and the rest of the surgery is carefully putting you back together, layer by layer.

Important things to know: when you have a cesarean birth, your abdominal muscles are not cut, they are moved to the side. This will need to heal, but the muscles themselves are not cut. Some practitioners use sutures, and some use glue on the final layer.

I highly recommend starting early on making sure that you are well supported with getting out of bed, going to the bathroom and picking up your baby. Healing takes time, and for each person that time varies. Be gracious with yourself and know and respect your bodies pace for healing.

In closing, Cesarean birth is birth, and it can be a beautiful experience. Use your birth plan to build bridges with your care team to that they can best support you throughout this experience.