As you prepare for your C-section and the arrival of your new baby (congratulations!), there are plenty of questions to ask before a planned C-section. From the nuts and bolts of what happens during the actual surgery (other than pulling out a baby, obviously) to expected recovery time, there's a lot of information to process. And you're not the only one. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 percent of all births today are via cesarean section. And while the high amount of C-sections performed in the United States is a topic of great debate, just know that communication with your doctor and being informed of what you should expect before, during, and after the surgery will work in your favor.
In this post, I will address some questions you might not have thought of yet, from breastfeeding and eating afterwards to how soon you can drive after surgery. After all, you can never be too prepared, and considering pregnancy brain is real, perhaps there's one or two things you've missed.
I remember being so nervous with the pregnancy of my first child, but taking the birthing classes, going on a hospital tour, and having an open dialogue with my doctor really helped put my mind at ease. As the old adage goes (and especially when it comes to your body and health), you can never ask too many questions.
1. "Can I eat before surgery, and how soon can I eat afterwards?"
You can really work up an appetite bringing a baby into the world, so when is it OK to eat before your C-section and afterwards? Because hospital policies differ, it's best to check with your primary care doctor on this one. While we've always heard not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your C-section, in recent years it's been determined that patients can now drink clear liquids before surgery, according to Dr. Robyn Horsager-Boehrer at UT Southwestern Medical Center. At least that's something!
After surgery, your doctor will want you to take it slow, with liquids first followed by light meals. Listen to your body. You will likely be having gas pains, and won't want anything to eat until after that pain is alleviated (according to LiveScience, gum can help with gas pains)!
2. Will the C-section be painful and how long will it take?
No, your C-section will not be painful. You will be given anesthesia, usually an epidural or spinal block, so the lower half of your body will be numb (though in most cases you'll be awake the entire time). Women have said they experience a tugging or pulling sensation. According to What to Expect, the C-section procedure is a quick one, typically lasting 10 minutes or less, followed by another 30 minutes to stitch you back up.
3. Can my partner be in the room during the C-section?
Good news! While it can depend on hospital policy, the vast amount of hospitals will allow someone in the operating room with you during your C-section, according to Very Well Family. Having your partner or a close family member or friend will help you remain calm and confident during the birth.
4. How soon will I be able to hold the baby?
We know how important it is to have skin-to-skin contact with baby immediately after birth, and fortunately there is a growing trend to let mothers have a more family-centered "gentle" cesarean birth experience. In reporting last year, Romper shared that skin-to-skin contact after cesarean wasn't common practice until 2013. Best advice is to speak with your doctor about this beforehand so you know what the policy is and that he/she knows how important it is to you.
5. How soon will I be able to breastfeed?
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can begin breastfeeding almost immediately after the C-section, and any pain medication you received will not interfere. Lactation consultants will be available at the hospital, but two positions that work well with moms recovering from surgery are the "football" hold, which offers less rubbing on the incision, and the "side-lying" hold, so you can rest while the baby feeds.
6. How long will I be in the hospital?
Women are typically in the hospital an average of two to four days following a C-section, depending on how their recovery is proceeding. If your hospital bag is prepared and ready to go, it should make things that much easier and more pleasant at the hospital.
7. What about my scar?
Thanks to advancements in medical procedures, your scar will be quite small. After your doctor removes the staples from your incision (or if you had sutures, they dissolve on their own), your C-section scar will be covered with Steri-Strips, a paper tape-like product, reported Parents. These will fall off on their own, so try not to mess with them as their purpose is to keep the wound closed and clean.
In the first two weeks, while the scar is fresh, do not lift anything heavier than your baby. You may shower, but only with a mild soap and without scrubbing the area. It's fine to get the incision and Steri-Strips wet, but avoid baths and swimming in the early days of your recovery.
8. How long is the recovery time?
Kecia Gaither, MD, Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health + Hospitals-Lincoln, told Self magazine, "In general, full recovery from a cesarean section is about six weeks." Take things as slow as possible (though short walks are encouraged) and eat a healthy, fiber-rich diet and drink plenty of water to help with constipation. According to Healthline, the following symptoms of infection after C-section could warrant a call to your doctor:
- redness, swelling, or pus oozing from the incision site
- pain around the site
- fever of more than 100.4°F (38°C)
- bad-smelling discharge from the vagina
- heavy vaginal bleeding
- redness or swelling in your leg
- difficulty with breathing
- chest pain
- pain in your breasts
9. When can I start driving again?
While this is a question for your doctor, women report everything from two weeks to six weeks. It really depends on your body and how fast you are recovering. Before getting into a car to drive again, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I get in and out of the car without significant pain?
- Can I buckle my seat belt over my abdomen or put on the brakes without flinching?
- Do I feel that I can turn my waistline comfortably so that I am able to look over my shoulder and in all directions while driving?
10. When is it OK to have sex again?
As with vaginal delivery, intercourse is off limits for 6 weeks following birth. Quite frankly, it will probably be the last thing on your mind, so this timeline checks out! You can discuss more with your doctor at your first postpartum checkup, including possible pain during intercourse thanks to a condition called dyspareunia, according to Science Daily.