Planning to have a C-section birth soon? Here’s all you need to know about it, straight from my own C-section experience, so that you go in completely prepared!
C-section births have become so common in recent years, that we all know someone who’s had it. However, not much is discussed in detail about this experience, and that’s why it’s still this scary, mysterious thing for expectant moms.
Even though a lot is written about it by professionals, for me, the most helpful thing to prepare myself was to learn as much about it as I could from other moms. Every C-section experience story was helpful to me, so I hope that by sharing my story, I can mentally prepare you.
Surprisingly, my maternity hospital did barely anything to prepare me. That’s why I had a million questions. I was scared, and also at a loss for what exactly to expect. How painful is C-section delivery? Spoiler alert: Operation is quick and painless, recovery is very tough. In the end: if I can do it, so can you.
What to Expect in a C-Section
The most common reason for C-section is if the baby’s position in the womb is breach or side. A planned C-section birth or caesarean section operation is also usually recommended by doctors if a woman has already had one for her previous birthing, or in case of multiple pregnancies (as was my case). Your doctor may also do an unplanned or emergency C-section if required at the time of labor. In either case, many women these days also go in for a planned C-section. Although there are no known long-term effects of C-section on baby, so it’s safe.
So the first thing to know is how a C-section different from a natural birth. C-section birth is virtually painless and much, much quicker than natural labor. If you’re wondering, “How long does a C-section birth take?” It typically lasts less than half an hour.
The recovery in natural birth is usually a couple of days, in which the worst is over as soon as you give birth. However, after a C-section, you take around two weeks to recover, and the worst part starts a couple of hours after the operation. What hurts more, cesarean or normal delivery? I’d say the recovery in C-section is just as painful as natural birth, although that pain is spread over a few days.
Preparation for a C-Section
Be prepared to spend 3-4 days at the hospital. 3 nights are usually standard. C-section births are costlier than natural ones due to the operation cost and extra hospitalization fee. However, these days most private hospitals in India charge the same fee for C-section operation and natural births.
Your partner will be able to stay with you at the hospital, so pack their things too. Although, depending on the hospital, you may have to pack their food/meals (or even yours).
Pack high-waisted underwear so it doesn’t hurt the incision while it’s healing. You’ll need larger sized underwear and clothing as you won’t become flat-stomached right after giving birth. The uterus takes 4-8 weeks to go back to its original size. Although that’s just what people say. I had my C-section two and a half months ago, and my stomach still isn’t at its pre-pregnancy state.
You’ll be required to submit a Covid-test report to your hospital. Additionally, they will ask you to arrange blood from the blood bank (they’ll tell you the quantity and place).
Getting Admitted into the Hospital
C-sections are usually scheduled for mornings. My time was 11am. Some hospitals will require you to admit yourself the same morning. However, in my case, they admitted me the previous night.
My parents dropped me off. I got my, my husband’s and babies’ things packed in 3 bags and my laptop for emergency work situations. Here’s what to do the night before C-section: have a filling meal, since you’re not allowed to eat 8-10 hours before the surgery.
The Night Before the C-Section
They called me into the nurse’s room to check my blood pressure and blood group. Then they take you for monitoring the fetal heartbeat(s). They strapped a monitor across my belly and I was asked to press every time the baby kicked.
Afterwards, a nurse shaved my pubic hair. I had already shaved in preparation, but she shaved it again (more neatly, as I couldn’t see anything down there). She also removed the nail polish from my toe nails, which I was hoping she could do me as a favor anyway, since I couldn’t reach there for a whole month now.
Finally, I was allowed to go up to my room. It was a simple hospital room with a hospital bed (higher than normal bed with wheels and an IV-drip stand next to it). It also had another bed and an attached bathroom.
Due to nerves, I could hardly sleep the whole night. I was very itchy due to my cholestasis and honestly, could hardly wait for the C-section to be over! I requested my husband to take my last pregnancy photo and had my last glass of water. Oh, did I mention you can’t even drink 8-10 hours before the C-section operation. Be prepared to be VERY thirsty.
They changed me into the dressing gown (but I changed back into my pajama set just for the night). When I woke up, it was – wait, what – only 3 am?! Oh, so many more hours to wait until the surgery!
The Morning Before the C-Section
The cesarean section procedure step by step is the best part. There’s a lot of prep work before they take you into the operation theater. I woke up early (mostly because I couldn’t sleep), took a shower. They sent my husband to blood bank, do insurance formalities, etc.
A nurse inserts a medication into your butt-hole (doesn’t hurt) that helps you empty your stomach completely when you use the washroom. Another nurse comes in to measure your blood pressure and put the IV cannula on your hand (extremely painful for a minute), which will stay there for two days (!).
The anesthetist comes in and asks about any allergies, medical history and previous operations. He prepped me – they would be making me sit very still, with my back curved, and would inject anesthesia into my spinal cord. Easy – I can do this.
A nurse put a catheter down there that can collect urine. Then it was time – they made me lie down onto a stretcher (I asked if I could take my phone in – they said I couldn’t). Then they whizzed me out before I could even say goodbye to my husband properly! Glad, it’ll be over soon, I thought.
Down the lift and into the operation theater (O.T.), getting carried on a stretcher is quite nice as you don’t have to walk. By the end of your pregnancy, even sitting makes you out of breath, let alone walking. Anyway, if there’s any time to be nervous – it’s this.
During the C-Section
They bring you in about 15 minutes before the scheduled time – the doctors and anesthetist are already there in the O.T. It’s a large room with another stretcher, a big screen to display time, a whiteboard where they’ll be writing down the weight of the baby and a screen next to the stretcher that’ll be displaying the ultrasound as they bring out the baby.
The doctors make small talk to ease your nerves. It’s a good idea to think – oh, this isn’t a big deal – I’ll be fine! They make you sit for the anesthesia like you were trained. Sit very still and it will hardly hurt. Then they tell you to very quickly lie down back before the anesthesia kicks in.
Then they partially remove your dressing gown (best not to think about what they’re doing down there) and within less than a minute, you feel your whole body numbing down, below the breasts. You can’t curl your toes anymore but you can still speak, see and move your hands. You can still be nervous, but it’s too late to back out now, so no point!
Will the anesthesia work? I was worried and wanted the doctor to make sure of this before they cut me up – but he didn’t seem worried about this (they may have already cut me up by then?!).
Okay, now you’re lying down, you can’t see anything down below as they have a screen to cover the body, and besides there’s the mountain of your belly. Who wants to see oneself being cut up and bloody anyway. Thanks, belly. I felt some cold things being rubbed on my stomach. Maybe they’re cleaning me.
My C-Section Experience
Now the fun part starts. Within a minute or so, you’ll feel a tugging in your stomach. My elder twin (the boy) didn’t want to come out. His arms and legs were everywhere, it took a lot of tugging and pulling and then I could feel it be over, and I heard him cry. They brought him to the side – all silvery – and announced – it’s a boy! And they took him for cleaning and dressing. Relief.
Before I could think of anything else, they took out the other twin and I heard her cry! These are the most relieving and the most beautiful cries in the world. They took her on the side too, and soon announced – it’s a girl! Awesome, I couldn’t ask for more. Sigh of relief.
They’re okay – I thought, as the doctors are busy recording the timings and weights of the babies. I had nothing more to worry about now in my life! I could feel a bit more pulling as they probably stitched me up. There are typically 6 stitches in C-section delivery, the nurse later told me.
They soon brought the babies back all clean and clothed for their first breastfeed. The first milk, clostrum, is supposed to be very healthy for the babies. They place each baby next to each breast and they start to suckle. My daughter was a natural, and the boy was crying and didn’t want to do it (he probably wanted to go back in!).
Then four people put me on the other stretcher, and wheeled me out, and within a minute, I was back in the room, and put on my bed. No pain yet. They attached me to an IV drip to put in glucose and antibiotics one after another, and as it all happens – you realize – you’re a mom now.
After the C-Section: The Recovery
The rest of the day after the C-section birth is the first toughest day, the next is the second. These are the major problems of Caesarean birth. On the first day, you still can’t feel your body for many hours. As the night falls, the anesthesia begins to wear off, and you start feeling the pain, bit by bit, as your body realizes there’s a 7 inch long cut down your stomach and uterus.
Soon the pain is at a level where you wonder why they aren’t giving you any medication for it. They are, they tell you. By night-time, you’re screaming with pain. It comes and goes, as your body works very hard to begin the healing process internally. A natural birth can’t have hurt any more than this, you think.
You can curl your toes by this time, and they help you move to the side, propped on pillows. They tell you you’ll have to walk to the bathroom the next day (seems impossible and laughable).
You’re still not allowed to eat or drink. Personally, I was extremely thirsty and wanted to guzzle down a liter of water. By night-time, they allowed me to have four drops every half an hour. I kept a watch and reminded my husband to put these in my mouth every 30 minutes. Then they end the misery by giving you sleep medication.
The Day After the C-Section
The next day is the most painful day of your life, almost as much as the night before (I know it seems grammatically incorrect). They remove the catheter and you’re scared – how’ll you go to the bathroom when you don’t think you’re capable of moving? It seems too soon!
Then the hardest part starts. A nurse helps you out of bed, you have to move your body to the side and then twist your hips so you can place your legs on the stool and then stand. I can’t explain it, but the whole process, especially twisting the hips, hurts so much that you almost faint. As the nurse follows you into the bathroom to pull down your underwear, and then back up, you begin to realize how much you use your pelvis for every movement.
The whole day is more of this pain, but it does keep reducing. The next day is also painful as you try walking out of the room. You’ll need someone to help you get out of bed for a least 3-4 days. But it keeps getting better and better everyday.
All in all, I’d say you can only do it if you think you can. And you have to, because if you try, it’ll all be over ASAP. You take pain medication the whole week, and by next week, you don’t even need medication.
Pain helps our body understand that it needs to heal, so it’s not a bad thing. My tip: try to move as much as you can. The more you move, the faster you’ll heal. Don’t overthink, just be happy. Thankfully, your baby (or babies, in my case) will keep you so busy you won’t even have time to worry about pain most of the time.
Shilpa Ahuja the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion. Other than defining the direction of the magazine, she also writes about fashion & beauty trend forecasts, industry analysis, and opinions.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University.
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