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Scheduled Cesarean Section (C-Section) Birth: What to Expect

Sometimes a surgical delivery is necessary for the health and safety of mom and baby. A Cesarean section (C-section) is a surgical procedure to deliver a baby through incisions made in the abdomen and uterus. If you have a scheduled C-section delivery, here is some information you’ll want to know before, during and after your C-section. 

How to Prepare for Your C-section Birth

You can play an important part in your own health before your C-section delivery. We need to be sure your skin is as clean as possible. By following a few simple steps, you can help prevent an infection before, during and after your C-section. 

  • DO NOT shave, wax or use cream to remove the hair on your lower stomach or pubic area for 1 week before your C-section. Hair removal uncovers more bacteria on your skin. It can increase the chance of infections.
  • Make sure you have clean bed sheets, towels and clothes ready to wear. Have clean pajamas, under pants and clothes ready to wear. Our clothes, sheets and towels collect bacteria from our skin.
  • We want you to take two showers/baths: one the night before your C-section and one in the morning before coming to the hospital. If you cannot do the washes for whatever reason, please let your nurse know when you get to the Women & Infants Center. We will be happy to get you towels, wash cloths and soap for you to shower at the hospital before your C-section. DO NOT apply any lotions, creams, powder, deodorant or perfume after washing.
  • Do not wear makeup, nail polish or jewelry. Remove any body/tongue piercings. If you wear contacts, please wear your glasses and bring your contacts and supplies along.
  • DO NOT eat for eight hours before your C-section. You may drink clear liquids until two hours before your surgery.
  • Please ask your doctor about all medications you are taking and whether you should take them on the morning of your surgery. 

You will receive a call from a Women and Infants Communication Center nurse in the days before your surgery to explain important information, confirm appointment time and answer any last minute questions you may have.

What to Expect at the Women & Infants Center for a C-Section Delivery

Preparation for Delivery
Once you are in your labor room, a lot of things will be happening to get you ready for your C-section. In addition to placing an IV and monitoring the baby’s heartbeat, your nurse will clean your stomach one more time using antibacterial wipes.

Most patients will receive a spinal or epidural as anesthesia for your surgery. This will allow you to be awake for the birth of your baby will avoid giving the baby any unnecessary medications. Most women just feel some pressure during the C-section. After your spinal medication, your support person can be in the operating room and can sit above the drapes next to your head.

To prevent blood clots from forming in your veins, compression boots will be places on your legs. These should be used throughout your hospital stay when you are in bed and overnight while sleeping. A Foley catheter will be place in your bladder to drain urine during your surgery and until you can get up and move.

Immediately After the Delivery
While your doctors finish the surgery, the pediatrics team will dry and evaluate the baby. If both you and baby are doing well, the baby can be place skin-to-skin (kangaroo care) on your chest for the last part of the surgery. If you are not feeling well, your support person can place the baby skin-to-skin on their chest.

The baby will stay in the operating room until the surgery is finished and then go to your recovery room with you. If you are breastfeeding, it can be attempted in the operating room or when you return to your room and feel up to it. If the baby needs additional support, our pediatrics team will tell you what the baby needs and answer any questions.

Recovering from a C-Section Delivery 

Preparing for your C-Section Recovery and Having a New Baby
In addition to all the regular preparations for bringing home your new baby/babies, when you have a C-section, it is also important to get ready for your own recovery. A C-section is a major abdominal surgery and you need to set realistic expectations for your recovery. Here are some things you can do to reduce pain, prepare your home, prevent complications and work to feel like yourself again. 

  • Take your pain medicine. Having pain after surgery is normal but everyone’s pain needs are different. To best manage pain, start with Ibuprofen and/or Tylenol. If your pain is not manageable with these options, you can use the prescription narcotic/opioid. The goal is to manage the pain enough so you can get up and walk around.
  • Start walking. As soon as you can, you should get out of bed. You’ll start by taking short walks and increase little by little. Walking up to 30 minutes per day can reduce your risk for blood clots, help prevent constipation and help you heal.
  • Prevent constipation. Surgery and pain medications can lead to constipation, which can be painful after surgery. You will be given stool softeners. It is also important to drink lots of water and eat foods high in fiber like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, or a fiber supplement.
  • Eat right and drink lots of water and continue to take your prenatal vitamins. If possible, you can prepare meals ahead of time during your pregnancy, if possible and freeze for easy reheating in the recovery period.
  • Support your belly when moving. An abdominal binder will be provided and can be helpful to decrease pain with movement. Keep the binder clean and prevent rubbing of the incision by wearing OVER a shirt. Splinting your abdomen with a pillow when getting up and walking can also help with pain. Rather than attempting to sit up, roll to the side and have a table or chair nearby for support when getting out of bed. This will be easiest with a firm sleeping surface that is lower to the ground.
  • No heavy lifting (anything heavier than 10 pounds) or strain to reach things in the first two weeks. Before delivery, move all frequently used items into easy-to-access places. Also position things that you might need to access, so you can limit bending and squatting in the early recovery period. 
  • Incision care and post-op hygiene. Most commonly you will have stitches that will dissolve on their own. As soon as your dressing is removed, you can shower as normal. No need to wash or scrub the site directly, simply wash your abdomen above the site and let the soapy water rinse over the site. Wear loose fitting clothing or pants with a waistband that hits above the incision to prevent rubbing and irritation. A menstrual pad can be applied over the site if clothing is irritating the site. Call your doctor for any bleeding, increased redness/swelling or drainage at the site.
  • Ease into sex. Wait until you feel ready physically, emotionally, and mentally to reintroduce intimacy with your partner. Have open conversations, if possible, about moving slowly to ensure the experience is pleasurable, rather than painful. Discuss with your doctor any persistent pain with intercourse.
  • Emotional support. Physical support during recovery is vital, but emotional support can be equally important. Here are some ideas to encourage a healthy mental and emotional state when recovering and adjusting to your new baby:
    • Establish a point person to check in with daily just about how you are feeling.
    • Find a local support group of similar mothers with new babies.
    • Speak with your doctor about concerns for mental and emotional well-being.
    • Contact Perinatal Behavioral Health Service to speak with a professional about counseling and resources at 314.454.5052.
  • Make a plan. Think ahead about your home environment. What will be obstacles or cause difficulty? What can you change now to prevent them from slowing your recovery? For example, if your sleeping area is on a different floor than your bathroom, perhaps you might set up a temporary sleep area to limit stair climbing during early recovery.
  • Ask for help. Think about your support people. Ask for specific help. After surgery it is much more helpful for friends and family to help out with household tasks, rather than hold the baby. If possible, your main focus in the first couple of weeks should primarily be self-care and baby care.
  • Prepare siblings and pets. Everyone’s world is changing! Prepare pets by training them not to jump on you and discourage them from being in your lap for some time before delivery. Siblings will be excited to have you back! Practice light touches and gentle cuddles leading up to delivery. This is useful for your own recovery AND for introducing your new family member.

Remember, you are recovering from a major surgery AND adjusting to being a new mother. Be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to heal. Focus on your own physical, mental and emotional health and that of your new baby.