How to Prepare for a C-Section (Even When You Don't Want One)
Nearly every expecting mama will admit that at least a portion of her brain is contemplating her upcoming birth. Rightfully so! There is arguably no bigger moment in a mom’s life than the day she gives birth to her baby.
For the first time mom especially, there are countless unknowns to sift through and varying scenarios to consider. Mental preparation usually starts early in the pregnancy and then crescendos as the due date edges closer.
It’s no secret that a large portion of births in the U.S. result in a cesarean delivery - approximately one-third of them, in fact. And while expectant moms should be preparing mentally for a C-section, many are not. We prefer to daydream about our ideal birth plan...where and when our water will break, how dilated we’ll be upon arrival to the hospital, how labor will feel more like pressure than pain, and just two pushes before we meet our baby face to face….right?
Ahh, if only birth would go as planned!
I’m afraid that this daydream blinds expecting moms to the very real alternative scenarios that can take place. Avoiding the details of what a C-section is like does not mean it won’t be a part of your story.
In reality, refusing to learn about c-sections simply because you don’t want one only ensures that you will be utterly unprepared if you find yourself on the operating table. Let’s demystify this and be ready for whatever comes. Just. In. Case.
So what do we do? How do we plan for a C-section, even if our hopes are set on a traditional vaginal delivery?
First, begin with the basics.
What is a cesarean? What necessitates having one?
A c-section is performed when vaginal delivery is deemed unsafe, which could happen for a variety of reasons (baby positioning, placenta position, baby in distress, a previous c-section, etc). To perform a cesarean, the doctor will make incisions in the abdominal wall through to the uterus to surgically remove the baby from the uterus. After delivery of the baby and the placenta, the doctor will close everything back up, with stitches and/or staples.
*A c-section isn't your "fault". You didn't do anything wrong if this is how your delivery unfolds.
Second, ask questions.
As you begin to think through what a c-section entails, you’ll likely have questions. That’s a good thing! Research. Write down your questions and request a time to speak with your Obstetrician about them. Express your concerns. Ask them for as much detail as you want to know.
Third, discuss with trusted friends in your circle.
Think about your mom friends who you trust and value their opinion. If any of them have had a c-section, ask them to tell you about their overall experience -- they do not need to share every nitty gritty detail that could induce fears or anxieties - but they can give you a real-life walk through. Things like what it’s like to be on the operating table, what they felt when they saw their baby, and what kind of recovery you can expect. Please be sure this is a mom who had a typical experience of a c-section and can give you helpful information, not a horror story.
If you don’t know anyone who’s had a c-section, you can find lots of birth stories told by mothers on podcasts, like The Birth Hour.
Four, mentally consider that a c-section is a real possibility, and remind yourself that if it’s what’s needed to bring your baby safely earthside -- it is a gift.
Much of the mental preparation for a cesarean is confronting your ideals and simply being aware that the possibility of surgical intervention is not completely out of the question. Unless you have a planned c-section, most women do not begin their birth journey hoping for a c-section. But for some, that is how it ends. If you end up being part of that club, you do not want to be caught off guard and bewildered. It will only make the experience more difficult.
Remind yourself that an ideal birth is not just a vaginal delivery...fundamentally, an ideal birth is one in which you and your baby are safely on the other side.
Finally, think through what you would want if you end up requiring a cesarean & make some simple notes to that end.
This would be a great question to ask your mom friend from the step three. What would she have done differently? What was she glad she did?
Ask your doctor about flexibility on preference issues such as clear drapes, skin to skin time after delivery, etc.
Make a few notes documenting your thoughts if you have a birth plan written out.
While it might seem tedious and unnecessary, being prepared isn’t something you’re likely to regret. Daydream about your birth. Think about your ideals. Be aware of the alternatives. Because whether your finish line ends with a push or an incision, the ultimate goal is being with your baby. Remember that.
If you’re an expecting mom, Wyatt’s Maternity wants to congratulate you on this exciting time in your life! Thank you for reading, and we hope you find lots of helpful resources here. If you are in need of a breast pump (at no cost through insurance), we would love to assist you. You can find information on that here.