Cesarean birth was NOT on my radar when I was pregnant with my first son. I was going to go into the hospital with full blown contractions, ready to rumble, and push my baby out. Then we were going to blissfully nurse and begin our journey into parenthood happily and confidently.

Those of you that are already parents or who know me probably know this is not at all what happened with my first son. At 37 weeks we discovered my son was frank breech and my OB/GYN was not only suggesting a cesarean birth, but she wanted to schedule it for my 39th week right then and there. I was absolutely blown and did not see that coming. I hadn’t, in all of the books I devoured during my pregnancy, paid much attention to what to expect when you are having a cesarean birth

A third of women have cesarean births in the United States today. Even though you want to think you will not have one, it is good to know what to expect just in case a scenario arises that warrants you to need one. Today you do have options to have a more family friendly cesarean birth (delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, lowered/clear curtain to see the baby born, etc). Be sure to discuss this with your provider if this is something you are interested in.


*You will need to sign the consent forms.

*They will also want to place an IV in your arm for fluids and they may also take your blood (hopefully you get a skilled nurse who doesn’t have to stick you 9 times).

*Next, the anesthesiologist will come in and discuss with you about the procedure, if you don’t already have an epidural in place. If you do, they will increase the dosage. Once this has been done they usually wheel you into the OR. At this time, they will usually ask the partner to wait in a room or perhaps in the hall while they prep you. After you are positioned on the table, they will give you the spinal. This involves the anesthesiologist numbing your back first and then giving you the spinal. They will want you to hug the pillow and be very still during. They usually explain the process though before it begins, so don’t worry if you don’t recall every step!

*Afterward, you will begin to feel numb (my favorite part because it creeps up your leg and feels warm) and this is when they will insert the catheter and shave part of your pubic hair for the incision.


*Once they have determined you are completely numb, they begin. Around this time is when your partner is invited into the room. You will feel a lot of pulling, tugging or prodding, all of which should be painless. It will feel uncomfortable though.

*Right before the baby is born you will feel a lot of pressure from the baby being born. Usually they will show you the baby and then take him/her to the warmer. However, if you chose to have baby placed on your chest, then this is the time your baby would be placed there. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby!

*After bonding with baby, they will take the baby to be evaluated. While the baby is being evaluated, the surgeons focus on stitching you back up (this was the worst part for me…waiting). This usually takes around 30-45minutes to do. Depending on each situation. Your partner may go and take photos of the baby while he/she is being evaluated or of course stay by your side, whichever you’d prefer.

*Once they are finished you are then wheeled into the recovery room. You may feel a bout of nausea or get the shakes (the shakes are no joke and I didn’t feel I could hold our son for a couple of hours after the surgery because of violent I was shaking). This is considered normal and they can give you medication should you feel you need it.

*You are usually monitored in the recovery room for about an hour or two. During this time you will start to feel sensation come back to your legs. You may also feel itchy, but this can be treated with an antihistamine.


*The first day you may be on a liquid diet or some doctors let you eat solids. They will also remove the catheter. They will want you to get out of bed and begin walking a little at a time (don’t be alarmed if you feel like your stomach will rip open if you stand up straight, this is normal to feel this way and I promise it doesn’t last forever).

*You will be on an oral pain reliever during this time, if you feel you need it ( I tried to be brave and not take it…big mistake). You just had a major abdominal surgery, you may have some level of pain. They will want to know about your intestines and any gas you may have as well. Part of the reason they’ll want up and out of bed is to keep the gas from crawling up your back. This happened to me and it was NOT pleasant at all.

*By the third or fourth day, they will send you home, depending on how everything is going. If you are breastfeeding the football hold is incredibly helpful to keep the baby away from your incision. Of course a nursing pillow or a few pillows are encouraged to help with support. They will also send you home with a prescription of oral pain relief. Typically these are safe to take while breastfeeding, but ask your doctor to be certain.

*Usually after 2 weeks you will return to have your incision looked at and then return at 6 weeks for a regular postpartum visit.


Our First Family Photo

Be sure to be on the lookout for any signs of infection, those signs are as follows:

-Severe pain, swelling or redness around incision site

-Pus or discharge from incision site

-Pain from wound that stays the same or increases

-Fever of 100.4 F or higher

-Painful urination or foul-smelling vaginal discharge

-Bleeding that soaks up a pad within an hour or passing large clots

-Leg pain or swelling

**If you or someone you know is looking for more information regarding cesarean birth or VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) please join us or send them to our monthly meeting. We meet every 3rd Tuesday monthly from 6:30-7:30PM in room #2 at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Or visit us online on Facebook here.

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Leah Cabotaje is one of our regular bloggers.  She owns Lean On Me Birth Services, where she works as a doula and midwife’s assistant.  She leads the ICAN of Fredericksburg’s chapter and also co-runs a perinatal support group for women experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder.  You can find out more about her here.