Monday, January 11, 2010

Things I Wish I had Known Before My First C-Section

Today I'm sharing a list of things that can happen with a c-section. You should also know that not everything on this list happens to every woman. Experiences also vary from c-section to c-section.

Even if you're not expecting a c-section, it can be helpful to know what could possibly happen should one arise. Knowing what is normal can help alleviate fear as well as helping you make informed decisions.

Here are some things I wish someone had told me before my first c-section:

*Shaking during the c-section and first hour of recovery is common. Warm blankets may help you to relax. I found the shaking to wear off as the spinal wore off and I was able to move my legs.

*Not being able to feel yourself breathe can happen during a c-section. You're still breathing, you just can't feel it. If it happens to you, remain calm and just let the anesthesiologist know how you're feeling. He/she can reassure you that you're doing fine. With future c-sections, inform your anesthesiologist before the c-section that you had a problem with the spinal rising too high so they can try to avoid it happening again.

*You may feel incredibly cold during your first couple hours of recovery. As the spinal wears off, the coldness fades as well.

*Intense itching after a c-section is very common. I've heard it to be related to the duramorph pain reliever in the epidural/spinal. If you experience this, talk with your nurse about options for relief.

*The nurses may try to take your baby to the nursery while you're recovering for an hour or so. If you want to have your baby with you at all times, then you are going to have to speak up! If the baby and mother are healthy, then there is no reason for them to be separated.

*The sooner you walk, the better. Getting up and moving actually helps you to heal, as well as helping to get your bowels moving again.

*Really bad pain in your shoulder or arm in the 24-36 hours after a c-section is also common. Trapped gas is the cause for that one and boy does it hurt! Make sure you're up and getting around when you can and it will help a bit with that.

*Your milk can take a week to come in. Again, it's normal, but also frustrating. It's still possible to have breastfeeding go well even if your milk delayed. You can try tube feeding while the baby is latched on that way baby is learning to latch and your milk is being stimulated to come in.

*While you are recovering, the nurse will check your uterus by pushing on it to see whether it is clamping down as it should. If it's not clamping down, they will massage your uterus and it might hurt a lot! You can help things along by massaging your uterus yourself too. Ask your nurse how to do this.

*Nurses may not always remind you about pain meds. With the some of my pain meds., i.e. Percocet, the nurses weren't allowed to remind me that I was able to take them again. So have your husband or whoever will be there with you help you stay on top of when you're due for meds. again.

*Being in pain can make healing more difficult. It's possible for pain to further delay your milk from coming in. So take it easy and try to keep your pain under control with meds. and rest.

*It's okay, and it's normal to have feelings of remorse over not giving birth vaginally. Even with a planned or elective c-section, you may still find yourself feeling like you "missed out" on something. What's not okay is when other people make you feel this way. Surround yourself with people that will love and support you as you heal.


  1. Just an FYI but you can request NOT to have the duramorph in your spinal. This eliminates the itching and in place you'll get a PCA (patient controlled analgesic) with morphin and a little button to push when you need it. So much better this way!

  2. I would have loved all this great info before I had mine! You really cover a lot. Almost makes me want a third...


  3. Great post, Morgan!

    I especially agree with your very last sentiments...with Mary Catherine I was very disheartened to have a c-section, but my logical brain told me it was the safest thing to do (low amnio level and breech presentation with an IVF baby does not make for a safe vaginal delivery)!

    I just felt like everything was so orchestrated...from the exact moment of her conception to the exact moment of her delivery that I did feel let-down not to have that experience, but alas, time heals old wounds...physically and emotionally! LOL

    With Benjamin I attempted a VBAC, but was unsuccessful. I think this was for a couple of reasons, but mostly b/c against my OB's wishes, I insisted on an induction b/c I was so tired of working full-time at my damn job and didn't want to give up a single minute of my 12-weeks maternity leave before baby arrived! My OB told me that induced VBACS after c-sections rarely work and she was right...never progressed past a 1 after 12-hour of low-dose pitocin...the body knows when it's ready or not!
    Ben was also a big baby compared to Mary...she was 6lb12oz he was 8lbs7oz and just wouldn't drop. After a day of icky menstrual-like contractions with no progress...I BEGGED for them to wheel me into surgery! I was waaay past feeling disappointed about a 2nd c-section.

    Of course, if I ever have a 3rd, there's really no other option for me and at 40, I'm okay with that! Some things in life you just have to get over!

    Hated the intense facial itching and the coldness and shakes though...blah!!!

    Sorry so long and rambling! Thanks for dropping by!!!!


  4. Morgan,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a wonderful comment! FIVE KIDS? Your superwoman cape is in the mail! Kudos to you and your hubby! Just wanted to thank you for stopping by and taking the time to respond. Be blessed!

  5. I am soooo glad I read this! I have had 3 vaginal deliveries and am trying to prepare myself for a c-section in 3 weeks! I am scared but knowing this informatin will help me. Thank you!

  6. This post was extremely informational. If I happen to be visiting a friend with a new baby and a primary c/s I will share this info with her if she seems perplexed by some of her symptoms. How are you feeling?

  7. This is great! These are all the things I wish I'd known before my cesarean - especially the part about the baby being with me. I passed out when they pulled my uterus out, and I woke up hours later in recovery. Being separated from my baby for so long contributed to a total breastfeeding failure with my cesarean baby. If I ever had to have another one (curse that thought) I'd demand that my husband or doula hold the baby ON MY CHEST even if I was passed out.

  8. This is an amazing post. I am so embarressed to admit that there were times I wished for a C-Section. Since my baby was posterior, I was getting full force contractions with no progress. It was just so frustarting. In the midst of it, I thought a C-Section was an easy way out. I KNEW from hearing other women that it was not...but sometimes the grass is greener...right? Then came a moment when they thought I may need a C-Section and all that went out the window and I was terrified! I got jolted back into reality. Anyway, this is a great post and really helps all women regardless of how they gave birth, new insight. I am sure you have helped women who are about to have a C-Section. :)

  9. Thanks for stopping by, and yes the PCA runs through your IV. I had mine for a day and a half then switched to meds by mouth. And ya, all three of mine have been c-section. With the third I specifically requested not to have the duramorph and half-way through the anesthesiologist leans over and says "sorry I forgot and put duramorph in your spinal" At first I thought maybe he was joking, but then I was not a happy camper when the itching started.

  10. I really like this post! Women don't normally prepare for a C-section and it's important to read up and be prepared just in case! Good advice!

  11. Thanks for your great cesarean posts! I'm prepping for my fifth c/s; it's coming up on February 19th. While I can't wait to meet our daughter, I've started to get the jitters already even though I know what to expect (or maybe because I know what to expect). It was reassuring to see your link to the woman (my pregnant brain has forgotten her name already) who just had a sixth successful c/s. I read her story and was relieved to hear it. You've got your 5th coming up also! Congratulations and good luck! :)

  12. I wish I had read this about 7 months What a great post. My little one was an emergency c/s and I was not even the slightest bit prepared. Reader's digest - I was planinning on a hypnobirth, but at 40 weeks 2 days, my fluid was very low, so they sent me over to be induced. Well my ds didn't tolerate the pitocin at all. His heart reate kept dropping and almost didn't come back up the last time. I was terrified. He never dropped into position, etc. My c/s went great, but I had all the symptoms you listed above. I still haven't had the guts to check out all the gory details of what happens with a c/s. My dr doesn't recommend a vbac for me (whenever the time comes) so I will definitly be reading up on your site. thanks!

  13. Thanks for this! I had an unplanned c-section after 30 hours of hard back labor that failed to progress. It irks me to no end to hear people say that "failure to progress" is not real. I planned for a natural delivery and did all the "right" things during labor...changed positions, no epidural or pain meds, stayed hydrated, etc. I took prenatal yoga and was very active throughout my pregnancy. I used a midwife practice. I had a supportive birth coach.

    The c-section was terrifying because I had no idea what to expect. I had never had an operation before. Luckily the team who did my procedure was amazing. They explained everything in detail, treated me with respect, acknowledged my disappointment and congratulated me on the beautiful (healthy!) baby girl that was all that really mattered in the end. It turned out that she was tangled up in the cord, which kept her from descending properly and that's why my cervical dilation stalled.

    Still, I really felt like a failure at first, because a lot of the sources that I looked to for support in breastfeeding and cosleeping and babywearing seemed to look down on women like me.

    I wish the online community could be a little less hardlined about this issue! Thanks for some great posts!

  14. I have 2 children from Natural Vaginal Birth. Delivery with my second was not easy. They induced me because my doctor said I was dilated (forgot how far) and that my baby was too big for my petite body. He didn't want my son (birth weight 6 lbs, 10 oz) to get any bigger. Hours later, after pushing so hard that I broke blood vessels in my face, eyes, chest and upper arms, my doctor told me to stop pushing because the baby was stuck. Doc reached in and turned baby, saying that his shoulder was caught on my pelvic bone. Then after baby was moved and started to come out, I was told not to push again because the cord was around my baby's neck. A long story short...I had 4th degree tearing. (and my baby boy was ok)
    We are in a different state with a new doctor now. I am due in 12 weeks. The doctor, along with other doctors in her practice, told me from the beginning that they HIGHLY RECOMMEND that I have a cesarean this time. I was scared and sad to hear this.. Reading stories like the one above are helping me to come to terms with having a cesarean and feeling more at ease with it. I will definitely ask for the PCA (thanks, melaniek) due to previous reactions I've had to medications. This is not the time to have a bad reaction to a medication. I want to enjoy my baby's birth day as much as possible.. Thank you for sharing this information!

  15. I just found out that we are expecting our 3rd baby. I'm 6 weeks along and already having extreme anxiety over a 3rd C-Section. Our first was an emergency section for our 10 week preemie who passed when he was 12 days old of Staph infection. Five years later we were having basically another emergency section (dr appt late morning confirmed my pre-eclampsia that had started earlier in the week was very progressed but c-section wasn't until later that evening). With our first it was such an emergency C-Section that they drugged me up and I don't remember a thing about it. Our 2nd was 3 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. I'm petrified to have to go through it again -- so much so that I can't even be excited about the end result. I'm claustrophobic so with our 2nd and not getting "good" drugs to help me, I FREAKED when the spinal kicked in and I couldn't feel my chest/legs. My face started itching towards the end of the section and I broke out in hives on my face (I'm guessing from the duramorph altho the anesthesiologist looked at my face, then said he'd never seen that before so had no idea what was wrong - VERY comforting, let me tell you!). I also started to feel like the curtain was RIGHT in my face and it was making me even more claustrophobic PLUS I started feeling insanly tired and thought I was either going to just fall asleep or pass out. When I mentioned that, my doctor said "Do NOT go to sleep!!!!" (which of course freaked me out - and I've never asked him why he said that). For me, it's very disconcerting knowing I'm lying there awake while my stomach is cut open and my insides are NOT inside me!!!
    While, of course, I'm extremely concerned about the health of my baby, I'm also very frightened that something is going to go wrong or my body isn't going to be able to handle it and I'm going to die - and be awake to witness it!!! It's going to be a very long 6 1/2-7 1/2 months!!!!!!! And I have a cyst in my overy that my doctor tried removing with my last section but I freaked out on him and told him I was D.O.N.E., get me OUT of that operating room NOW!!!! I'm really hoping and praying that they can give me some great drugs this time to keep me calmed down (I don't care if I'm out of it and don't remember it!)so that I can make it through the section AND getting my cyst removed without completely falling apart. My husband is no help because he is so worried about my health and the baby that even tho he tries to put on a brave front, I can read him like a book and feel the worry just pouring out of him. This will definitely be our last baby because I don't think either of us can survive the worrying and stress!!! A lot of that is due to losing our first baby, even tho it wasn't because of the C-Section. Our 2nd was 4 weeks early so that made our last section nerve wracking, too.
    Thanks for all the info you've posted on C-Sections. I was curious if typically more than one person can be in the OR with you? Like a doula? I was just wondering if maybe having a doula in there would help calm my husband and myself....
    I've not gotten brave enough to look at the c-section pics/videos because I'm not sure if that will make it more stressful for me or if it would maybe help me....

  16. Anonymous,

    I tried with each of my scheduled c-sections to be allowed an extra person, but the hospital would not allow it. The closest I got was them allowing a member of my OB's office staff to video tape for me during one of the c-sections and a hospital staff member videoing with the last one. You should ask, though. There is nothing to loose in asking!

    Instead of seeing the next 6 months as a count down to your doom, use those 6 months to help you learn to mange the anxiety you have about the birth. Seeing a counselor might even help. They might be able to offer relaxation techniques that would help you in the days leading up to birth and during the surgery itself.

    I took my iPod in with me during my last c-section. I had music on there to listen to and was even able to check e-mail- while I was being operated on! That was a really good distraction! I also had the nurse bring my baby's scale close to me while he was being weighed and measured. Again, another good distraction.

    The anxiety is difficult. I can relate to that a lot. What kind of beliefs do you have? Are you a Christian? I ask because one thing that has helped me in dealing with anxiety at its worst is remembering that no matter what happens, God has a plan (even if it's not the one I would have chosen). I have to deal with weird and scary feelings almost every day. God has used it as a way to help me face my anxiety head on. It's still a daily struggle, but I am trying. Going through the "what-ifs"… how far have you gone with that? I find that if I really walk through my worst fears with c-section and illness, sometimes my fears are not as bad as what reality would most likely be.

    Address the numbness up too high issue with your anesthesiologist before the birth this time. They can do something about that. I had mine rise too high the first two times too. It is scary!

    Overall, 3rd. time c-sections seem to be the best. Maybe because we know more of what we want by that point? Keep researching your options and start planning for a positive birth experience!

  17. This was very helpful. Thank you for posting!


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