About 30% of women who give birth will end up with a c-section. I’m not saying this to judge c-section rates or cast aspersions on the practice of c-section, but rather to highlight the fact that c-sections and c-section recovery are a very real factor in pregnancy. It’s worth it to give the possibility of a c-section some thought before you deliver so you aren’t caught totally off guard if you end up needing one at the last minute. And if you’re planning a c-section in advance for any reason, you definitely should have a talk with your doctor about what to expect for recover and what your options will be.
I’m headed into my second c-section fairly calmly. I had an easy recovery from my first one and I’m hoping for a similar experience this time. Because I already know what to expect, there are things I can plan for a little better. In particular, I’m laying plans for how to deal with my restricted activity levels in the first few weeks but there are other things I’ll be thinking about as well.
Based on my past experience, here’s my check list of details to go over with my doctor and my husband in advance of my surgery:
Anesthesia: Find out what type of anesthesia you’ll be getting. It might be an epidural or a spinal blocker and you’ll want to know the difference. You should also ask how long after surgery they’ll keep you numb and when you can expect to be able to get up and move around. It may be a few hours before they stop anesthesia because they want you to keep contracting to help shrink your uterus.
Pain management: There are all kinds of different post-op pain management options. A friend of mine who’s had three sections swears by a “pain ball”, an anesthetic device placed in the incision that delivers pain relief directly to the site. Ask if this is an option for you. There are also oral medications that your doctor will likely prescribe. If you have known issues with any particular medication, be sure to talk them over with your doctor and set out a pain management plan in advance. Also, find out the side-effects of any medications you’ll be on. Pain relievers can cause stomach issues and you don’t want to be taken off guard!
Post-Op Restrictions: They don’t let you drive for two weeks after a c-section. I found this to be the hardest restriction I faced because of all the doctor appointments and errands you’ll have right after having a baby. Getting a ride to the pharmacy to get your prescription filled and get to the first pediatrician visit will be critical so think ahead on that. You’ll also likely be restricted on things like climbing stairs, how much you can lift, and how active you can be. Find out the basic restrictions in advance to plan for them. And don’t try to do too much! It’s so tempting but you want that incision to heal right on the first try.
Self-Care At Home: You should get printed materials about medication schedules and wound care when you’re released from the hospital but it’s a good idea to go over that with your doctor as well. Even with a c-section, you’ll have post-partum bleeding to think about and your incision site will need special cleaning and care. If you can stock up on supplies for that in advance, do it.
Schedule of Post-Op Care: As I write this, I can’t for the life of me remember when I’ll get the stitches from the surgery out. Two weeks? Six weeks? I just don’t know. Check with your doctor about when she’ll want to see you and what will happen at each post-op visit.
If Something Goes Wrong: Surgical incisions are serious business. Do not ignore spikes in pain or changes in the appearance of your wound site. Ask your doctor ahead of time what constitutes a cause for concern and what should trigger a call for an appointment. When in doubt, call your doctor. Better safe than sorry!
Bring in Help If You Need It: And you will need it, especially if your partner has to go back to work soon after the birth. Bring in your mom, mother-in-law, neighbors, friends, a post-partum doula, or cleaning service to help you out. Make your baby and your recovery your top priorities and let other people handle the laundry and cooking.
Having a c-section may not be your ideal birth plan, but if it does happen, it’s important to get good care afterwards. take the time to plan for it, whether you need to or not. As they always say, plan for the worst, hope for the best!
Photo credit: photo stock
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