Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Planned C Section Births: How To Prepare

As April is C Section awareness month, I thought I'd cover in detail my personal experiences of c section deliveries in a bid to help other mothers know what to expect.

All 3 of my children were born by planned c section.

As somebody who suffers with extreme anxiety & panic disorder, health anxiety being a big part of that, I managed to scare myself silly about birth during my first pregnancy when I googled the possible complications of Graves Disease (An autoimmune disorder I've had since the age of 18) on birth - I started to suffer with panic attacks at the thought of giving birth, and so after careful consideration I decided that a planned c section delivery would be better for my mental health and therefore better for the baby too - and so I expressed my desire to have one. In the UK, women have the right to choose how they give birth - this includes the right to a csection delivery.

I don't have any experience of emergency C sections or of VBACs as this was never something I wanted, and so unfortunately I'm not able to offer any advice in those areas.

So how do you go about preparing for a planned c section delivery? 

Well in my experience, one of the very worst things to do is to try to overload yourself with information. I made the mistake of searching on YouTube for c sections being performed - trust me, this is probably not something you want to do! Don't get me wrong - they are fascinating to see and maybe worth a look after the fact, but I don't recommend watching them when you know this is something you're going to be undergoing soon yourself.

Instead I found it really helpful to take some control over my C Section delivery by detailing in my birth plan how I'd like things to be on the day.

It's a common myth that having a C Section delivery takes away all control surrounding the circumstances of the birth from you - you still have the right to request things to be a certain way, and if the requests can be safely met they will be.

For example, for my first two births I had no idea I could make these requests - and during my second birth the operating room was very quiet with no music or radio on. It meant I could hear every sound during the operation, every beep from every machine...I found this a bit frightening and would have preferred some background music to focus on.

Third time around, I knew I had the right to ask for this to happen and the hospital were so accommodating - they told me I could bring in my own playlist on an ipod if I wanted, or I could just ask the surgeon to have the radio on. I chatted about it with my surgeon and it turned out that he and my partner had the same taste in opera which he enjoyed listening to during surgery, so we ended up with one of my partners favourite pieces of music playing during the birth which was really nice and I felt so much calmer.

 Other requests you can make include delayed cord clamping, the use of cord ties instead of clamps, immediate skin to skin requests, who baby should be handed to first, you can ask for wires to be placed in other parts of your body so as not to restrict your ability to hold baby in the theatre - there are lots of things you can request to personalise the birth to your own wishes. Of course each hospital will vary on its policies, but there is no harm at all in asking.

What To Pack

There are a few differences in what to pack in your hospital bag for a c section compared to a vaginal birth, which are worth making a note of for your own comfort.

Of course what to take for the baby will remain the same regardless of the delivery, and you will still need all of the things you would have for a standard vaginal birth - maternity pads (it's a total myth that you bleed less with a csection birth - you don't!), breast pads, any items of comfort for your hospital stay, etc.

The only differences are:

*Make sure that you take BIG knickers. You don't want anything that's going to sit on your scar and irritate it - I always pack the biggest belly warmers I can find, the ones that come right up to basically just below your boobs! Definitely ones that go over your belly button. I also buy them about 2 sizes too big so that they're very loose and comfy too - scar irritation is THE WORST.

*Extra maternity pads - to pad out the scar area. This was a tip given to me by the nurses in the hospital, and I found it worked really well. You just pop an extra maternity pad into your underwear over where the scar is, and it helps to stop any irritating and cushion the area a bit.

*Loose fitting PJs - You also want to make sure that your pyjamas don't sit on your scar area either, and aren't too tight. Infact I always take nighties rather than pyjamas as I find them to be much more comfortable.

*Extra PJs/Underwear For A Longer Stay - Keep in mind that although the hospital stay time for C sections is shorter than ever now with some hospitals sending patients home the same day as the operation, you MAY end up staying in for 2 or 3 nights depending on how your recovery is going. So allow for this when you pack your bag, I'd plan for 2 nights stay personally.

*Arnica tablets - Who really knows whether this helps or not but it's said to promote healing, so I always take some with me anyway in the hopes that it will help my scar to heal more quickly.

*Peppermint tea - One of the worst after-effects of a c section for me is the trapped wind you experience after the op, I find that peppermint tea really helps to soothe this so take some with you!

What Happens At The Pre-Op

Before having a planned c section, you'll have an appointment to go into hospital for a Pre-Op.

This is basically just a last examination before the birth - they'll take some swabs to check you for MRSA. (This involves rubbing a long cotton bud along your inner thigh, the inside of your mouth and your inner nostril).

They'll probably weigh you and take some measurements so that they know how much anesthetic to use. You'll also have the opportunity to speak to the anesthetist who'll be with you on the day - they'll ask some questions about your medical history, and go over some basics with you. They'll also ask you to sign the consent form - this can be a bit frightening as by law they have to warn you of all the risks, and as with any operation - there is always the risk of death, obviously the risk is miniscule but they HAVE to give you the warning and ask you to sign the release form. Try not to focus on it.

You usually get to briefly meet the surgeon who'll be performing the operation too, and get a chance to ask any questions you have.

You'll be told how things will run on the day of the op, where to report to when you arrive as well as what time to arrive and you'll be given instructions on what to eat/not eat the day before.

You're also usually given two tablets to take and instructions on when to take them - one is taken the evening before the operation and one on the morning of the operation, you'll also be given two special drinks to have beforehand. The tablets I believe are to reduce stomach acid, and the drinks are to help aid a smoother recovery. They're not entirely unpleasant.

And that's it! You're all ready for your c section delivery.

I'll be back later on this week with a post about what to expect on the day of the operation.

If you'd like some further reading about C sections, here are some links to past posts I've written:

13 Things Nobody Tells You About C Sections
C Sections: Your Right To Choose
Sailor's Birth Story: My 3rd C Section Delivery
Noah's Birth Story: My 2nd C Section Delivery
Tyne's Birth Story: My C Section Delivery

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