16 things you should know about having a C-section

Mums who've had a Caesarean share their tips on what to expect and how to stay calm...

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When misscheeky posted on our Chat forum, asking if she was silly for being “petrified” at the thought of having a C-section (answer: no, she’s not silly in the slightest), lots of our mums replied to her, offering some brilliant tips on what to expect.

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Of course, you can read the standard what-happens-in-a-C-section stuff all over the internet and we wouldn’t claim that our mums’ tips cover every last medical fact but this is real up-close and personal info from women who’ve actually gone through it – pretty valuable insights, we think, from mums who’ve been there and had a C-section before you.

Here’s what they said:

1. It’s normal to be frightened

Far from being “silly” for being scared about having to have a C-section, everyone says it’s totally normal to be nervous, even – yes – a bit scared, at the prospect.

After all, it’s a major operation and, if you haven’t had one before, it’s hard to know what to expect.

“It’s normal to be frightened,” says Swanny85. “Actually, I was the same, but the other way round, with my 2nd. I had him naturally but because C-section was all I knew, this time I was scared of having a vaginal birth.”

And Mummy Tortoise agrees: “It’s natural to be apprehensive.”

2. There will be needles (but they shouldn’t hurt)

There’s no getting around the fact that if you have a C-section, you’ll probably see some needles. You’ll probably have a cannula – a little tube inserted with a needle – so that medication can be delivered if necessary throughout the birth.

Hadepop tells us: “The cannula doesn’t hurt… I felt it less than a blood test.” And Carolineprice27 tells us that she had “‘magic cream’ to numb my hand before the cannula. I hadn’t asked for it; the medic just put it on. Wonderful man!”

You’ll most likely have an epidural (local anaesthetic administered via a needle in your back), too, to numb the pain of the C-section, and, as Hadepop says: “It’s’s a bit of a pain staying still for the epidural but they do numb the skin on your back first, so it doesn’t hurt when the needle goes in.”

3. They’ll be a screen

One thing it’s worth knowing if you’re having C-section is that, as a basic rule, they’ll set a screen up so you won’t have to look at what’s going on when they’re wielding scalpels over your tummy. 

Depending on which hospital you’re having your baby in, though, you may be able to ask for the screen to be taken down so you can see your baby coming out into the world.

“I have thought that, if I had another section,” hanea says, “that I would like to have the screen down so that I could see the baby being pulled out. I’m not at all squeamish.”

And actually, some TOTALLY unsqueamish women have recently asked their surgical team if they can help pull the baby out themselves. No pressure, though! That’s a pretty unusual request…

4. A C-section isn’t always required with twins

If you’re having identical twins, it’s more likely you’ll be advised to have a C-section to avoid complications which could come up due to the fact the babies are sharing the same blood flow.

If they’re not identical however – and depending on other factors such as size of the babies, and their position (especially of the first baby) – it might well be possible to have a vaginal birth.

Catriona0407 had a vaginal birth with her twins and said: “Labour was only about 7 hours long, which was fantastic compared to my daughter’s which was 36hrs!

“And I’m so chuffed that the boys made it possible for me to have a natural birth. The only disadvantage of this was, of course, the fact that when having twins, you’re pretty much confined to the delivery-room bed to allow the midwives to monitor each twin very closely.”

5. There may well be other pain-relief/nerve-calming options

As well as the epidural, there could be more options for pain relief if you’re struggling with the experience. 

One of our mums, Bluerani, tells us: “They gave me diamorphine while I waited for my epidural and it made me nice and calm for it. But I have to say the operation wasn’t that bad at all.”

If you are nervous of the pain/needles/the whole darn thing, it’s worth having a chat to your midwife or anaesthetist to find out what options are available.

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6. You’ll have a catheter

It’s pretty standard for any woman having surgery on their womb to have a catheter inserted (into the bladder) before having a C-section. It’s basically just a tube that drains your bladder and collect the urine in a bag at the end. Your medical team will aim to remove it before you’re ready to start moving about.

Carolineprice27 told us: “The catheter was inserted after the epidural so I didn’t feel it. I had a very straight forward C-section and was up in the shower the same afternoon, and the catheter was out that evening.”

Bluerani says: “The catheter was fine. I forgot I had it in. And getting it out wasn’t painful; it just felt strange.”

Hadepop agrees: “The catheter is put in after the epidural, so you don’t feel it going in, and I honestly didn’t feel it when they removed it either.”

7. Your birthing partner can be part of it

Just because you’re having a C-section, it doesn’t mean you’ll be on our own, surrounded by medical strangers, when it comes to giving birth. Most hospitals will allow you to have one person you choose in there with you.

And if you’re keen for your birthing partner to cut the cord, that’s just fine, according to Sarah B. “My hubby cut the cord at my planned C-section. Just let the midwife or consultant know in advance that’s what you want.”

8. It will probably be calmer than you think

A number of our mums who had planned C-sections have admitted that the actual experience was actually pretty calm.

“With it being planned, it’s going to be lovely and calm for you,” says Swanny85.

“I had a planned C-section and it was very calm and the theatre staff were really lovely,” agrees Mummy Tortoise.

And Hadepop – who had quite a difficult experience – says she still thinks a C-section was better for her than if she’d had a vaginal birth:

“As someone who is anxious about being in control, I can honestly say it was a very calm experience, despite my daughter getting stuck, my placenta fragmenting and me losing too much blood!

“All of which would have happened had I had a natural birth – but with worse consequences, I imagine!”

But what if your C-section isn’t planned? OK, so the run-up to any unplanned Caesarean can, almost by definition, be a bit scary, but once you’re in the operating theatre, everything calms right done.

As Bluerani tells us, “I didn’t dilate so had to get a C-section. I was completely terrified – I couldn’t stop shaking – but, in the end, it was fine. I even fell asleep when they were stitching me up!”

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9. The excitement of meeting your baby will you get you through it

This might sound like a bit of a cliche but it definitely seems to be true.

“Once you are there, you will be so excited to meet your baby, you won’t care… Once you have your little bundle in your arms, you won’t care what they are doing to you,” says Swanny85.

10. It’s rubbish that it stops you bonding with your baby

Some of our C-section mums did say they found it a bit weird to have a baby during an operation. “After my emergency C-section delivery, I didn’t feel like I’d ‘had’ my baby,” says Vicky B.

And that meant some worried this would somehow stop them from bonding with their little one.

Which, of course, is absolutely not the case.

Once you’ve got your baby in your arms, having skin-to-skin contact, the bonding will happen. For some, it happens straightaway; for others, it takes a while – Vicky B says it took her “a couple of days to feel like I was a mum” – but that can happen to mums who’ve delivered vaginally, too.

11. …. or breastfeeding

Some mums also worry that having a C-section will mean they’ll miss out on the chance to breastfeed (if they’re planning to) but this isn’t necessarily the case at all.

Shockedmummy told us: “I had a C-section in December and my DS latched on really well straightaway. They did skin to skin as soon as I was back on the ward – which was within 1/2 hour of delivery!

“The only thing I did find was that my milk was a bit delayed coming in and the health visitor did say this is quite normal for a C-section delivery.

“I had my baby early on a Thursday and my milk didn’t come in until the Monday which meant he did lose quite a bit of weight (about 1lb) but he fed really well and I don’t think having a C-section affected his ability to latch on.”

And Anna_Banana said: “I had an emergency c-section 10.5 months ago and I am still breastfeeding my son!

“He is my first, so I have never had a natural birth and I can’t tell you if it is any different, but I had no trouble at all with breastfeeding.

“He was put on the breast in the recovery room when he was less than an hour old and then, on the ward, he fed every few hours. The midwives were great because they picked him up and put him back for me each time I fed.”

12. Breathing deeply can help A LOT

If you can, try some relaxation techniques to help you through the experience, advises Mummy Tortoise. Kayagh says when she had twins via C-section she went to her “happy place”.

And Bluerani says: “The best tip I can give you is breathe nice and deeply through anything you are worried about and focus on the baby.”

13. You might be home lickety-split

While in most cases, women go home around 2 to 4 days after having a C-section, if you’re recovering well it might be possible to go home after a day or so – as long as your wound is healing well, you can have follow-up care at home. 

That was certainly the case for Hadepop: “I was home 26 hours later.” 

14. You may recover more quickly than you think

While, as we’ve already mentioned, having a C-section is major surgery, and you’ll want to make sure you take it easy and are looked after, you might be surprised at how quickly you’re able to get on with life “as usual” afterwards.

“My recovery was fine; I kept forgetting I had just had surgery,” said Bluerani. And Carolineprice27 tells us: “I was driving two weeks after my C-section.”

“Get up on your feet as soon as you feel able,” advises Hadepop. “But then do not overdo it and you should recover much quicker than you think.”

One of the biggest worries for mums is that they won’t be able to drive for, like, an ETERNITY (well, 6 weeks!). But that’s not necessarily true: once you feel in charge of the car when you try to drive it – and can manage to do an emergency stop – then you’re OK to drive.

15. The scar (probably) won’t be as big as you think

One thing you probably do know about a C-section, even if you’ve never had one, is that it does involve cutting the stomach, which will result in a scar. But don’t be scared into thinking this will be a huge, deep, red slash across your tum for evermore. 

A number of our mums have told us that actually, the scar was a lot smaller than they expected, and got a lot better over time.

Missmyangels told us: “My scar is thinner than a pencil line. Nobody would know it’s there. It’s very neat:)”

And Tracy47 said: “I have had four… My 1st nearly 30 years ago and my last 22 years ago… I had my scars all in the same place… You can hardly tell now; here’s just a faint line…”

16. You won’t necessarily have to have a C-section next time around

It’s not true that, just because you have a C-section birth with your first baby, you’ll necessarily have to have another with your next child. If your next baby’s lying in the correct position and you have no medical issues, you can go for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean), if you’d like to.

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