C-sections are becoming more common in the U.S., comprising close to one-third of all births. When I had my first c-section it was not a total surprise. I had always been told by my doctor that I had a narrow pelvic bone and would probably not be able to give birth vaginally.
My first experience with giving birth via c-section taught me a lot. When I was pregnant with my second child and expecting my second c-section, I began preparing for the unique challenges this method of giving birth presents well before the day of surgery.
While pregnancy books and websites can give you the details of the surgery itself, there are some common sense tips that are usually not discussed. What did I do to prepare for my c-section? Here are some of the things I did to get ready for the hospital stay, surgery and my return home.
Prep Those Freezer Meals
When you return home after having a c-section you will be in pain. While the pain medication my doctor prescribed certainly helped ease my discomfort, it also made me quite drowsy. I also had a 15 month old who needed to be taken care of and a hard working husband who needed a hot filling dinner when he returned home from work. Trust me when I say that caring all day for a 15 month old and a newborn while recovering from a c-section did not exactly inspire my inner Julia Child. My solution: Get some hearty meals in the freezer before surgery day. Some family pleasers in my freezer were lasagna, seasoned taco meat, chili, burritos and casseroles.
Pre-Register at the Hospital
Pre-registering at the hospital will save you a lot of time on the day of your surgery. If you pre-register you will be able to bypass the line at the registration desk and go directly to the birthing unit. Some hospitals will call you as the day of your c-section nears to pre-register you. If not, call the hospital. Almost all hospitals will allow you to register ahead of time.
Be Prepared to Wait
Just because your c-section is scheduled for a certain time doesn’t mean you will actually have surgery at that time. There are many unknowns in a hospital birthing unit. Be prepared to get bumped if there is an emergency. While my c-section was scheduled to begin at 4:00 pm, I didn’t actually get wheeled to the operating room until 7:00 pm. Bring something to distract you and occupy your time while you wait such as a deck of cards, a crossword puzzle or a good book.
Ask for Anti-Nausea Medication Before Your Surgery
Many women become nauseated by the spinal medication administered for the c-section surgery. Well before you are wheeled to the operating room, ask your nurse if you can have some anti-nausea medication.
Expect a Longer Hospital Stay
Insurance usually covers a four day hospital stay following a c-section, and for good reason. A c-section is major abdominal surgery and recovery will be slower, more painful and have more chance for serious post-birth complications than a vaginal delivery. Make sure you have helpers in place for your older children, pets and house.
Pack Your Bag Early
Pack your bag a month in advance and have it in your car ready to go. Even though I had a date scheduled for my second c-section, I ended up having complications that necessitated moving the surgery up two weeks. In fact, I went directly from my normal pregnancy appointment at my OBGYN’s office to the hospital. Was I ever glad I had my hospital bag ready to go and in my car.
Pack Warm Socks
The sooner you get up and walking around after your c-section, the easier your recovery will be. That means you will be doing a fair amount of walking around cold and germy hospital hallways. Make sure you pack several pairs of your warmest socks. You will also want to change into a clean pair of socks each day. While you could pack slippers, I found it was easier to have the nurse help me into a clean pair of socks each morning. Otherwise, you will be pushing your call button to get slipper assistance every time you want to walk. Trust me when I say that bending over to put on your slippers yourself will really not be an option after your c-section.
Take a Pre-Hospital Bath
If you enjoy a nice warm bath, take one before your c-section. Because a c-section is major abdominal surgery you will not be able to immerse yourself in a tub of water until you get your incision checked at your six week OBGYN check. So make sure you get nice and clean before your c-section. Although you will be able to shower in the hospital a few days after your c-section, it will be difficult to get yourself thoroughly clean.
Eat a Nice Meal
The week before your c-section, go out and have a nice meal. You will not be able to eat or drink anything 12 hours prior to surgery due to the anesthesia. After surgery, well, let’s just say you won’t really be able to enjoy food for at least a few days. Following a cesarean section, you will be put on a clear diet for the first 24 hours- think jello, broth and Sprite. This will help ensure that your intestines begin to work normally much sooner. You’ll also have less gas buildup, which is a definite plus.