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THE MORE YOU KNOW THE BETTER: Gather as much information as you can prior to delivery!
Talk to people who have been through it.
“Women have such different experiences with their C-sections—there is no one way that it goes down. I found it very helpful to talk to women who have been through it and read folks’ experiences because that way I felt I had a good idea of a number of trajectories the surgery could take me.”
Don’t ignore the emotional component of a C-section.
"Emotionally, for me a C-section was a nightmare and a huge disappointment. So having people to talk to about it was key for me. Most people don't realize what major surgery a C-section is, and focus all the attention on the baby. The mother is really hurting and gets no attention. Sensitivity to that is golden."
Share your knowledge with your family and friends.
“I did a fair amount of research to try to know what I was getting into. I made sure I shared the relevant info with my husband, family, and close friends. Whether it was what to expect for the actual surgery, what to wear to the hospital, or the policies of the hospital — it was useful to have that knowledge in many brains instead of only mind!”
Know the hospital’s nursery rules before delivery.
Also, knowing that babies coming from c-sections typically spend a little time in the nursery, rather than going straight to their parents' room, I would learn about the nursery rules and regs prior to having the baby so that I could march in there and be involved with my baby as soon as I was able.”
Get familiar with your hospital and surrounding area!
“Knowing the policies and regulations of the hospital you’ll be delivering at is helpful. A lot of this information you can get from your OB. How many people will be in the OR, how many people you can bring with you. If your allowed someone to spend the night. How the process of getting a private vs. shared room works. The easiest train routes to the hospital, etc. I even scoped out restaurants and bodegas around the area so when I could eat food I knew where to send my husband!”
"Personally, I think it seems more scary than it is, at least that was my first experience. It’s such a small piece of time and you are much more focused on your newborn. I say this as a single person who only had a doula with me that I met a few hours before surgery(my original doula was suddenly ill and went into the hospital 2 days before I did). The hospital staff was so supportive and comforting that I wasn’t anxious about it at all."
KNOW WHAT TO BRING TO THE HOSPITAL
Use the Park Slope Parents “What to Bring to the Hospital” list, one thing to consider with a C-section to bring clothing that doesn’t rub on your incision.
"The only thing I can think of to bring to the hospital (beyond what one normally brings for birthing) would be clothing that isn't tight around the incision, which will probably be right at the top of the pubic area."
"Bring comfortable robe, something loose and easy to get in and out. Button down shirts are very helpful, so you don't have to bend down or stretch to put them on."
Hospital pillow are not all that nice, so consider bringing your own pillow. It's also helpful to hold the pillow against your belly on the car ride home since any bumps in the ride can be painful on your incision.
Peri bottles are helpful after C-sections too, not only vaginal birth. "There are a couple things I thought were vaginal-birth-specific that are not: peri bottles and pelvic PT. Take a fancy Frida Mom peri bottle with you, because if you’re feeling particularly tender from surgery, you won’t want to bend around much in the shower. The Frida bottle is a nice aid in the shower for that reason. And you may still need pelvic PT from all of the weight and structural changes in pregnancy despite not going through vaginal delivery, so pay attention to your body for cues you need help."
THE DELIVERY AND IMMEDIATE RECOVERY: What to know and how to get the best C-section experience
You may be able to ask for a "gentle C-section."
"Something someone suggested to us is that you can have a c-section and still have an experience that feels like birth and not surgery. They recommended lowering the drape, making sure baby is placed immediately on you for skin-to-skin, infant procedures are delayed until after bonding time if over. In the event they need to take baby from birthing person, you can request baby go to partner for skin-to-skin. They call this 'gentle c-section' or 'family-centered c-section.'
Have you partner seriously consider whether looking “over the curtain” is a good idea!
“A friend of mine had a c-section and her husband made the mistake of looking past the curtain and vomited and almost passed out. Don't let your partner peek!”
You will feel pressure, but not pain.
"During surgery, the nerves that feel pressure are different than those that feel pain. Feeling pressure does not mean the anesthesia isn't working (my big fear)."
You can talk to your doctor about your comfort level with medical talk.
"I had an unplanned c-section and the best thing I did was ask my doctor NOT to talk about what she was doing during the surgery but just to tell me when the baby had arrived. I'm phobic about medical procedures and didn't want to hear about the cutting and stitching during what was one of the best days of my life. So, my Dr. talked to the other Dr. and assistants about everyday things (her kids, vacations, the weather) and whispered the instructions to them when needed. It made it all much easier for me and helped me keep my mind on looking forward to seeing the baby."
See if someone in the OR can talk you through the surgery.
“The doctors and nurses obviously need to be able to communicate with each other while they’re working on you—it’s surgery! But see if someone not as involved in the actual surgery can walk you through what’s happening. My anesthesiologist did this without my asking and I now realize what a gift that was. He explained why I was feeling the pressure I was, how baby A looked when he was born, how baby B (twins) peed as soon as he was born! (haha) He perfectly balanced what was going on medically with the beautiful aspects of birth. Priceless!”
Ask someone to document the birth!
“If I have another baby, realizing that a c-section could happen again, I would try to be prepared with a video camera (if they would allow it) or at least a camera for my husband to get that first picture for me to look at while waiting to see my child.”
“You might not think you want pictures of the surgery—but they’re awe-inspiring! My anesthesiologist grabbed my camera and documented the whole thing for me, and as gruesome as some of the photos are (mm hmm), remember this is the birth of your child. Now when I look at the photos I think they’re beautiful. I must have looked at them a thousand times already. I’m forever thankful I have them!”
You will be able to see and touch your baby!
“When my baby was born, they put him on my chest for a while, and though I couldn't hold him, I was able to stare at him and fall totally in love. My husband was able to accompany him to the nursery while I was in the recovery room, but it all seemed like such a blur and when I got to my room, the baby was wheeled in shortly thereafter (or so it seemed). I was able to breastfeed right away.”
If complications arise, keep calm. You’re in good hands.
“I had to spend 5-6 hours in recovery (usually it is 1.5-2) due to vomiting, blood loss, and insufficient output (I wasn’t pee-ing). At first I felt very frustrated and upset that I wasn’t getting to spend time with my husband and babies (he took them up to our room). But then I had a sort of epiphany that my babies aren’t going anywhere, I’m in good hands with my OB and nurse, and my body needs to recover in order for me to be a good Mom! I still was able to hold them and try nursing while in the recovery room. But then I really needed that time to stabilize. You may feel like someone is “robbing” you of this precious time with your baby—just remember what you just went through, and that it is the medical team’s job to make sure your healthy and safe. You will still bond with your baby.”
Consider taking anti-nausea medication if vomiting becomes a problem.
“I got very sick (vomiting) after surgery. I told the doctors that I did not want anti nausea medication because I had been told that it would make me drowsy and I wanted to bond with my baby. Let me tell you, vomiting for the first 5 hours of my daughter's life impaired my ability to bond more than being drowsy."
BREASTFEEDING AFTER C-SECTION: Tips and insights
You can ask in advance that your baby be put to your breast ASAP.
"If you plan to breastfeed, ask the dr. to put the baby on her breast as soon as possible (after they clean/check/etc.). I didn't do this right away, but only a few hours after, because I was exhausted, and it was awkward with the many IV's and tubes running out of my arms. Every situation is different, but I am convinced that putting him on right away would have helped (or at least not hurt) breastfeeding, which I ended up having trouble with at first.”
Some parents supplemented with formula until their milk came in.
"Your milk generally takes longer to come in after a c-section; contrary to popular belief, you most likely WILL NOT HURT your baby's chances of latching by supplementing with formula early on. I felt much better knowing my baby had something to eat."
You can breastfeed while on pain meds.
"You can breastfeed with pain meds. The breast is an excellent filter."
Ask to try breastfeeding while in the recovery room.
“I made clear with my nurse that I wanted to try to breastfeed asap (the nurses at Mt. Sinai were very accommodating, I found), and she scheduled a lactation consultant to meet me as soon as I got set up in the recovery room. Since I had just finished the surgery I was a bit groggy, but it was so wonderful to have that skin to skin moment!
If breastfeeding is your goal, don’t fear and don’t give up!
“Yes, there are more hurdles to breastfeeding if you have a C-section. Supposedly your milk comes in a bit later, you have to be separated from your baby for longer, and your not as mobile. BUT, don’t give up! Be patient with your baby and patient with yourself. Don’t freak out if your baby loses more than 10% of body weight and thus nurses want you to supplement with formula (mine did). Just keep at it. Stress is a killer of a lot of healthy body functions (lactation included), so if you let yourself stress about all this you’re actually hurting your chances to breastfeed. As soon as my milk came in (day 4), weight gain started (for the baby!) and everything was fine.
Try different methods until you find a breastfeeding position that's comfortable for your incision.
"I breast-fed for the first few months and that was probably the biggest challenge of the recovery, finding a comfortable position where I didn’t feel like any contact was going to be made (even though inevitably it of course will be). My Brest Friend nursing pillow was a big help with that! Much more supportive and solid than other types, so I felt more 'protected.'
Otherwise, our set up was so that my husband was sleeping on the side of the bassinet, and he would wake up and pass the baby to me for the feedings… It was a bit improvised, but in the time that he would pick up the baby and unswaddle etc, I could pull myself up and adjust everything. Not having to lift baby helps tremendously, until you are ready and comfortable enough to do so. It takes you a little while to understand how to move, but as little stress and as much general movement as you can do, the better!"
DURING YOUR HOSPITAL STAY—taking care of your body and your baby!
Take your pain meds before you start hurting!
"The nurses there offered me large doses of Motrin quite regularly. They told me to take it in advance of the pain, because I guess once you already start hurting, it's much harder to make it stop.”
Be proactive in asking for your meds.
“I found that I had to ask the nurses for the medication--they weren't proactive about getting it to me, so I think that might be important to keep in mind."
Getting “regular” will likely be a problem — try apricots and prunes.
“Several moms pointed out that you may have difficulty with bowel movements – dried apricots and prunes can help. Most hospitals want you to be regular before they'll discharge you.”
Beware of gas pains!
"The worst part for me was gas pains in the day or two following the surgery, since it affects the whole digestive system. I drank a lot of fluids and walked to the nursery frequently, which helped a lot, and took Mylicon drops which also did the trick. I also had a box of chamomile tea at my bedside and practically finished the whole thing by the time I left."
Get walking by day 2 at latest —it will be hard, but it is so worth it!
“They’ll likely get you up and walking the morning of your second day. I remember thinking I’m tough—no biggie. But it was actually quite painful! I thought ‘are you sure I should be doing this?’ That day I walked the halls a few times and by the end of the day I already felt better about movement. I also made an effort to keep my body moving while lying in bed. Movement makes you better!”
Look at your hospital stay as an opportunity to bond, rest, and learn!
“Some folks talk about wanting to get home asap. I didn’t feel that way. I was so thankful for my extended stay (4 days/3 nights) in the hospital. I was able to really focus on my babies (had twins) and rest. Also, I loved picking the nurses’ and doctors’ brains about my surgery, recovery, and of course my growing babies!
Rest and bonding with baby are the top priorities.
"Concentrate on the baby and take naps . . . Those sleepless nights accumulate fast if you're not catching up on your sleep and result in mood swings, blues and short-term memory loss. Let go of almost everything else, but sometimes it is not easy to do."
If you want the baby in your room, have someone else stay with you!
"If she wants to room in with her baby, she should really try to have someone else there, too with her. I did that and found it extraordinarily difficult to have to ring a nurse to get my baby every time I wanted/needed to hold him, since I couldn't sit up on my own just yet."
Don’t be afraid to use the nursery—you need your rest!
"It's ok to have your baby sleep in the nursery instead of in your room and have the nurse bring him/her to you when hungry. It's gonna be your last chance to have some rest."
Be willing to kick visitors out!
"Make sure too that you can kick [visitors] out with no fuss if you don't want them. Don't have stressful family members if avoidable."
Have a plan for visitors—don’t give up your rest time!
"Limit visitors to a couple of hours a day - let them come in all together and leave together. We let our visitors come in from 9am till 9 pm in a constant stream and it was exhausting in itself."
Mind your underwear!
"The hospital should provide you with mesh underwear -- wear them; they let the air circulate to your incision while keeping it clean."
“Some people prefer bringing their own (huge, comfy) underwear, but I found the mesh underwear from the hospital to be perfect! I brought a ton home with me from the hospital, and even ordered more online once my stash ran out!”
Ask your nurse for a belly binder.
"The best thing that I could recommend for right after (I mean the next day while still in the hospital, as soon as she would have to get out of bed) is to get a support belt. They should have it at the hospital. I did not get it the first time with my daughter but got it the second time with my son (a nurse gave it to me) and it made
such an incredible difference."[Supposedly you can buy these at a surgical supply store if the hospital doesn't have them, or one mom said you could just cut the legs out of large control-top pantyhose and fashion your own.]
A shower does a lot of good!
"Order a shower when in the hospital. Feels great, and the nurse makes a little cover for your incision."
Make use of your hospital room stash!
“Take all of the supplies in your hospital room, especially the mesh underwear and maxi pads. If the nurse asks if you need more of anything, always say yes. Definitely take and use the abdominal binders, as they will help stabilize your midsection and manage the pain.”
Until you can eat solid food, ask visitors to bring you nutritious liquids.
"The hospital won't let you have solid foods until you pass gas after the operation, which could take a day or more. So ask visitors to bring chicken broth, jello, apple juice -- any clear liquids that can keep you fortified.”
Hospital food isn’t the greatest—have someone bring you food from the outside.
"Once allowed to have solid food, it would be helpful if someone brought real, good, normal, outside food. The hospital food both times (Beth Israel and Mt. Sinai) was atrocious to the point of inedibility, and I am sure it slows down healing! My mother brought me fresh chicken soup, sandwiches, fruit, tea. It was very, very helpful."
Don't try to rush out of the hospital.
"I second staying in the hospital as long as they'll let you. I had a vaginal birth for our first kid after 36 hrs of labor and we left hospital the day after. Nope nope nope nope. I wish I stayed until I was evicted. This seems like it would be especially true of c-section, even just to have someone caring for your incision?"
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