A C-Section birth occurs as a pre-planned operation, or in response to an emergency towards the end of pregnancy or during labour. The procedure involves a major abdominal surgery and the delivery of a baby. This is a mostly safe operation, but presents more risks than a vaginal birth.
There is no reason why you should have a C-Section if there is no medical or obstetric reason for it. South African public hospitals for example, only perform C-Section in the case of an emergency.
A C-Section will take about 30 minutes, while sealing the wound will take longer. The length of time taken for the procedure depends largely on whether the operation is an emergency or elective.
A planned C-section is usually done 10 to 14 days before the due date, while an emergency C-Section proceeds when necessary.
What can I expect?
An anaesthetist will check your health, and will enquire about allergies and other medical matters. This will be done either just before the operation, or earlier in the ward.
Your pubic hair will be shaved off as a cautionary measure against infection. A catheter and an intravenous infusion will then be inserted into a vein in your arm before the procedure begins.
After this you will be taken to theatre in a wheelchair and your abdomen will be swabbed with disinfectant. The catheter and drip will be inserted, and if you will be having a general anaesthetic C-Section, the gynaecologist will start the surgery.
Which anaesthesia is best?
A spinal anaesthesia is safer for both you and your baby. It allows for a quick recovery and you are also awake during the whole procedure, so it allows for more involvement.
The procedure is not painful and will only start once your abdomen area, right up to just below the breast, is totally numb. Women don’t report any pain during a C-Section, but some have reported a tugging-type of sensation.
A horizontal incision of about 10cm will be made just above or at the pubic hair line, and all layers below that will be cut. The amniotic fluid and blood is suctioned out and your baby will then be lifted out by hand or with forceps. The placenta is removed after an injection to make the uterus contract strongly to detach the placenta and prevent postpartum bleeding.
The inner lining of the uterus is then scraped to ensure that no pieces of placenta are left behind. The wound is then stitched.
There will be a paediatrician to check your baby straight afterwards. Ask to cuddle and breastfeed your baby right there on the operating table. This promotes successful breastfeeding and bonding between mother and child.
Also message your baby gently, if possible. Infant message after a C-Section can help babies overcome associated problems such as colic, poor growth and restlessness.
You may feel groggy and maybe even nauseated after surgery. This can last up to 2 days, but there is medication to minimize this feeling. Many moms also report feeling itchy. If this happens, let your caregiver know, so that they can give you medication to relieve the itchiness.
Healing after your operation will take a bit of time, but there are some tips that can help to quicken up the process.
- Get up as soon as possible afterwards, although you should mostly rest for 12-24 hours. Do ankle and calf exercises to help prevent blood clots.
- Expect some pain from the wound and the abdomen area, also look out for symptoms for postnatal depression and deal with these symptoms speedily.
- Clean the wound with a gentle disinfectant containing Calendula, rather than with a harsh disinfectant.
- Breastfeed your baby while lying down, and hold her in a rugby ball position when sitting down.
- Don’t start exercising for a full six weeks to make sure that all the layers of skin, muscle and womb heal properly.
- Put your hand over your wound when coughing, laughing and sneezing to minimise pain.
- Ask your doctor when you can bath or shower. If your wound is very painful, have it checked for a possible infection.