Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Planned C Section Births: What To Expect On The Day & In Recovery

Earlier on this week, I wrote about how to prepare for a planned C Section birth. Today I'm moving on to what to expect from a C section birth on the day itself.

I'm a naturally anxious person and not knowing what to expect from a situation can make me go into a real panic, I like to know exactly what's going to happen and when so I can prepare myself for it.
A lot of people assume that with a planned C section delivery, everything is going to run like clockwork and the whole surprise element of babies arrival is completely removed - in my experience, that isn't really the case.

Of course if you're having a private hospital birth then you will likely have a totally different experience to mine, but in a normal NHS hospital (i've given birth via c section in two different hospitals - one in Liverpool and one in Devon) things are not done to particular timings.

You are usually given a date for your section about 1-2 weeks beforehand and you won't usually be given a time.

Instead you are told to arrive first thing in the morning, around 8.30 am. When you arrive on to the ward, you'll usually be taken to a private room and given a surgical gown to change in to.

They will have asked you at your pre op not to wear any nail varnish etc, and this is usually checked. I've never been asked not to wear make up, and I prefer to wear a little bit to look slightly more presentable in photographs when the baby arrives - just personal preference! I have heard of some hospitals asking people to avoid make up completely, though.

Once you're changed into your gown, your birth partner is usually given their own gown and hair-net thingy to wear and then it's just a waiting game.

There are usually a certain number of c sections performed each day, and the order they are done in depends on a number of factors.

There is also always a chance that an emergency will pop up and you will then be bumped down the list. Occasionally this can mean that there won't be space for your op to be performed on that day, and you'll be asked to come back on the next available date - this is a rare occurrence however, and not something that has ever happened to me.

In my experience, you're not usually kept too up to date on when you'll be likely to go in to surgery - you pretty much just sit around in the room waiting to be called in, until someone comes in and says its time to go!

With my first son, I went in at around 11 am and was about third in. With my second son, I was the first one in which surprised me a lot! And with my third son, even though we were told they were very busy and we might be pushed back to another day - we ended up going in 4th at about 11.30 am.

What Happens In Theatre

When you go into theatre, you'll be introduced to the people in the room - there will be quite a few of them which I found surprising at first. I'd say there were between 10-15 people in the room.
Most of them will be milling around doing things, but 2 or 3 of them will be focused on you - mainly the midwife and anesthetist.

The first thing that will happen is you'll be asked to get up onto the table, they'll open your gown at the back and ask you to lean forwards as much as possible - this is when they'll administer the anesthetic.

They usually do an initial injection first to numb the area, and then they put in the spinal block. This is the part that most people worry about most - I'm not scared of needles at all but I do always worry a bit at this moment as it does feel quite strange, and I dread the feeling of the anesthetic taking affect.

However, it is usually over and done with very quickly. While all this is happening, your birth partner will usually be sitting to one side or sometimes they won't be brought in until the spinal block is done.

Once the anesthetic has been administered, you'll be asked to lay down on the table - sometimes they will ask you to roll on to one side and then the other. This was something I only experienced with my 3rd section and may just have been a trick that particular anesthetist used, but it felt a bit odd as it's quite tricky to roll in to any position with a 9 month bump - let alone when you're losing feeling in your lower body fast!

After this was done, you lay and wait for a few moments - while you're waiting the anesthetist is usually chatting to you, and the other staff are doing their thing - prepping things, milling about etc.

Then somebody will come over and do some checks to see if you're suitably numb - they'll usually spray something cold on to various parts of you or rub an ice cube on you, this is to check that you can't feel anything.

Once they're happy that the anesthetic has worked, the curtain will be put up and things will begin.

In my experience, they don't usually tell you when they make the first incision - they usually say after a few moments, "we've started by the way" - this has happened every time and I think they must do it this way to avoid panicking you as the feeling I've always had is "Oh wow, they're already in! I didn't even feel it!" rather than "Oh god they're going in now! Can I feel anything!?"

While the operation is happening, the anesthetist will usually keep you chatting and you'll have your birth partner at your side too. The anesthetist usually asks questions about how you're feeling - if you're experiencing any side effects such as shaking or feeling sick they can give you something to help, so they keep questioning how you are because of this and it's worth keeping them informed so they can help you to feel better if need be.

As for what it feels like while the op is happening, you hear a lot of people describe it as feeling like someone is doing the washing up in your tummy - I've never personally felt that way, infact other than some slight tugging I don't ever really feel anything. I do always feel the sudden lightness when the baby is lifted out of me though!

When the baby arrives, they hold him or her above the curtain and announce their arrival - everybody coos over it and they wrap him up to bring over to you for cuddles. Someone usually offers to take photographs for you too.

Once the baby is there, the rest goes by in a flash. I'm told it can take anything from half an hour to an hour to finish up the op, but it always feels like mere minutes to me. I am always surprised when the curtain drops and I see myself looking as though nothing at all has happened - just suddenly minus the big bump that was there minutes before!

They then lift you from the table onto a hospital bed (which is always a scary moment, but they're very good at doing it smoothly!) and you're wheeled out with your baby into the recovery room.


Once you're in the recovery room, which is a private room, you'll be given time to get acquainted with your baby and there will be a nurse popping in and out usually every half hour or so to check on you.

They will help you to get feeding established, and will usually check your blood loss too - you'll have a catheter in for the first few hours (this is put in during the surgery, you don't even know its happening!) so you won't need to go anywhere which is good because you will still be numb for a while!

The time it takes for the anesthetic to wear off varies - with my first two sections it seemed to be wearing off within an hour, but with my third it seemed to take a little longer - more like 2 hours or so.

You'll usually be offered a cup of tea after an hour or so, too.

While in recovery, a nurse will usually come in and fit you with some rather fetching compression stockings which are to reduce the risk of blood clots. These are extremely tight and not the comfiest things ever, but they're necessary. (Sometimes they'll fit them before the op, it just depends on the hospitals policy)

After a few hours in the recovery room, you'll be wheeled up to the ward where you'll stay for the rest of your time at hospital.

Once on the ward, the catheter will usually be removed after a few hours once you've got the feeling back in your legs. You stand up and the nurse basically just yanks it out, it doesn't hurt...just feels a little odd!  The nurses will encourage you to get up and have a walk around every so often, too.

You'll have to measure your wee from then on using a jug that they give to you, and keep drinking a certain amount of water too - they need to make sure that everything is working as it should.

They'll also ask you to keep an eye out for any blood clots too - anything larger than a 50p piece is supposed to be reported as it can be a sign of placenta etc being left behind and can be quite dangerous. This isn't something I've ever experienced.

Recovering At Home

You'll usually stay in hospital for 1 or 2 nights following a c section delivery, and my advice is to stay for the full 2 if you can - I left after 1 night when I had Noah and that was my most difficult recovery. I don't think that's a coincidence. I think that staying in hospital and making use of the time to aid your recovery is going to help it all to heal faster.

As for the recovery period once you're home - you need to remember that it's not a race. You HAVE had major surgery, and you do need to allow yourself time to heal and recover.

I found myself feeling more like normal by the third day and this can sometimes make you think you're ready to get back to every day activities, but go easy on yourself and don't do too much at once. Remember not to lift anything heavier than your baby for a few weeks, and don't go trying to be a hero and doing housework on day 4!

You'll sometimes be sent home with fragmin injections to do each day at home - this is usually dependent on your BMI but not always, some hospitals ask all patients to do the injections. The injections are to help reduce the risk of clotting after the surgery, and they need to be done once a day. They're very easy to do - you just stick them in to a bit of flab on your tummy (or get someone to do it for you if you're squeamish!). You'll be given a sharps box to store the used needles in too.

You will also still be wearing your sexy compression stockings too - they usually advise you to keep these on for the first week or so in my experience.

I always find that I feel great immediately after my c sections, but then after 10-14 days I'm suddenly hit by a low point in my recovery - I usually end up constipated and suffering with terrible trapped wind around this point which can get incredibly painful.

After about 3 weeks I usually feel pretty much back to normal, but this will of course differ for everybody.

The worst parts of the recovery for me were:

* The trapped wind and constipation - I used peppermint tablets, peppermint tea and drank a full glass of Prune juice every day to help with this and it seemed to work quite well. Also make sure to keep your diet fibre rich and drink plenty of fluids too.

* The pain in the incision area when laughing, sneezing or sitting up from a laying position - I found holding a pillow over my scar when I laughed or sneezed helped a lot with this, and going very slowly when sitting up too!

I hope this post has been helpful, I'll be back later this week with a post about Common C Section Myths.

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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