A Cesarean Section is a major abdominal surgery. If you weren't planning to have a c-section, it can be a source of trauma that leave many Mamas feeling disappointed, anxious or even angry.
While the c-section rate in the United States has become increasingly high for a myriad of reasons (nearly 32%, according to the CDC), there are some circumstances where a belly birth is the best option, whether it’s for baby’s or mama’s health.
Knowing that you’ll be giving birth via cesarean section can absolutely be a positive and exciting experience, because it allows you to have a bit more control over how your birth will play out! From the birth itself to postpartum healing, there are a few things to consider when planning your c-section birth.
Psst! Know you’ll be having a belly birth?
Want to walk in feeling cool, calm and prepared? Click here to get on the waitlist for my new course all about scheduling a cesarean birth!
Why I am here and who I am:
Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society, a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!
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Planning the Details of Your C-Section Birth Experience
A Cesarean birth is no small undertaking—it is a major surgery after all. But the good news is that having a c-section doesn’t mean you have to feel removed from the birth experience! One way to feel more present during your birth is to have a “Gentle Cesarean” or “Family Centered Cesarean.”
A gentle cesarean is a way to make Mama feel included as her baby enters the world, by implementing a few details to make the moment a bit more “friendly”, versus strictly a medical procedure.
Check with your birthing provider BEFORE you show up for the big day, to see if you can arrange for a few of these friendlier options.
One thing that may make you feel a bit more present during your birth, Mama, is having your medical team use a clear drape during the surgery, opposed to the typical solid sheet. If a clear drape isn’t available at your hospital, you could request to have the drape lowered as baby is lifted out of your belly! Don’t worry, the placement of the incision won’t be visible to you even if the drape is clear.
If you’re planning on having a c-section ahead of time, you may not feel the same level of anxiousness that you might if it were spur of the moment. Because you have time to relax your mind, you may be able to request that the anesthesiologist not give you any additional drugs that will make you less coherent. This way, you can be more alert during your birth!
Another way to help you feel a bit at ease and set the tone for a gentle birth? Play music! This is something that you will definitely need to clear with your birth team, but if you are planning to have a c-section, having a curated playlist may be something that helps make the moment even more special!
On the same note, you can request for any IVs or other necessary wires to be inserted on your non-dominant hand. This will allow you the opportunity to hold your baby and have immediate skin-to-skin snuggles while your doctor finishes stitching up your incision.
For a full list of ideas for your “gentle cesarean” and how to actually implement them, read this post!
Immediately After The Birth
Just because you’re having a c-section, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the special moments that come immediately after birth! Provided your surgery is non-emergent, you can request to delay all of the typical newborn procedures in an effort to preserve the “golden hour” after birth. Soak up all of that extra alert time that baby has shortly after birth, before handing them over for routine tests and measurements!
You may also be able to breastfeed during this skin-to-skin time and watch as baby makes their way to root on you, known as the “breast crawl”!
Another treasured moment that you don’t have to miss out on is letting your partner cut the umbilical cord! Just inform your medical team that you would like this to be done by your loved one. Better yet, a non-emergent cesarean section may mean that you can delay baby’s cord clamping. Why delay cutting the cord? Get the full scoop here.
When it comes to a baby’s microbiome and gut health, more and more research tells of the important role that Mama’s vaginal flora plays in building baby’s immune system.
Although a planned cesarean birth means that your baby won’t make their way through the birth canal, it doesn’t mean that they can’t reap the benefits of your flora.
Some moms opt for what’s called “vaginal seeding” after a c-section. In vaginal seeding, a sterile cotton swab or gauze is inserted into the mama’s vagina, which collects a sample of her vaginal fluid. The fluid is then rubbed onto baby’s skin and over their eyes, ears, mouth and nose in an effort to mimic the benefits of the baby being exposed in the birth canal.
While many of the governing bodies surrounding birth do not endorse this practice, it is becoming increasingly more common for Mamas to include it in their plan for a cesarean birth. If the effect c-section on your baby’s microbiome is a concern for you, then this may be a practice to dig deeper into as you plan out your birth experience.
Making a Plan for Postpartum Essentials
If you have not had a c-section birth prior, you may not realize that you’ll still experience a lot of the same aftermath that comes with a vaginal birth.
Unfortunately, you are not spared from vaginal bleeding, clots, cramping, constipation, etc. I hear you Mama, seriously LAME.
Although you won’t be giving birth vaginally, your uterus still has to shrink back down to it’s pre-baby form, which means you will still have things like mesh underwear and maxi-pads in your future.
In addition, recovering from a cesarean birth also comes with its own demands.
Rest being a huge one. Lots of rest.
If you know that you’ll be having your baby via belly birth, you have the unique opportunity to do a little bit more preparation when it comes for postpartum supplies.
Before your big day, it’s a good idea to stock up on a few medications to have on hand just in case. We cover this in our Cesarean Masterclass.
As your gut recovers from a bit of trauma, your digestion may cause a lot of discomfort. Over the counter medications like Gas-X (for gas, as the name suggests) and stool softeners such as Dulcolax or Colace may save the day if you find yourself feeling discomfort post-op. Future you will thank present you for saving a trip to the drug store during your recovery time!
You may also benefit from having a belly binder ready to go. Tip: Bring it to the hospital with you!
Small home improvements for recovery
Often times, when a Mama has to have a c-section that is unexpected, there are little details back home that make recovery difficult.
For instance, sleeping. When you’re recovering in the hospital, the inclined beds can make it easy to find a position that feels comfortable.
But what about at home? If you’re not expecting a cesarean birth, sleeping at home can be the source of some uncomfortable nights.
If you know you’re going to have a c-section you can plan out your sleep space ahead of time. Investing in supportive pillows to prop you up into an incline—or even fully upright—will be a great thing to have on hand, if you find that it’s the most comfortable position for you.
Creating a sleep plan before you have your c-section will be especially important for mamas who are stomach sleepers.
Another way to make home life easier post-birth is to set up stations around your house of things you’ll need for you and baby. Diapers, burp cloths, pain medications, scar creams, etc. can be helpful to have close by.
You might even want one of these little extended reach grabbers!
Know What to Look For
While we hope and pray you have no complications with your c-section, knowing you’re having a cesarean birth ahead of time will allow you to also spend a little bit of time familiarizing yourself with signs that something isn’t quite right.
According to healthline.com, some of the signs to watch for include:
- 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
Since you you will be planning your c-section ahead of time, you can study the list above and catch any suspicious symptoms first-thing, before they have a chance to worsen into a full blown problem.
You can do this, Mama!
While the decision to plan a cesarean birth may be a difficult one, the upside of knowing you’ll be having a birth is the ability to prepare—mentally and physically.
If you know you’ll be needing to have a c-section, hop onto the waitlist for my new course where I’ll cover the knitty gritty details that you’ll want to know before showing up for your big day!
One thing’s for sure, it won’t be long until you meet your little one.
Cheering you on!