You’re having a c-section. In many ways, the process of preparing for a c-section, also known as a cesarean delivery or a surgical birth, is similar to a vaginal birth. But there are some particular things it helps to know to prepare for this kind of birth, especially as a loss mama.
Many loss mamas find that subsequent births trigger memories of their loss. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself grappling with those memories as you prepare for your c-section. The time leading up to your c-section may be one when it is particularly helpful to process your feelings with friends, family, or a therapist. You can also let your providers know, if they don’t already, about your experience with loss and how that impacts the type of support you would like during your c-section.
Talk to Your Providers
Leading up to your c-section, there will be several times you can ask questions and make requests of your team. Asking questions and making requests is normal and expected, so you should feel empowered to do this. Here are some questions and requests to consider.
What is a c-section like at this hospital?
Knowing exactly what to expect can help reduce any anxiety or stress you may feel about your c-section. You can request that your provider explains the procedure to you in detail in advance of your c-section and, again, as it happens.
Do you offer a gentle cesarean or family-centered cesarean?
Gentle or family-centered cesareans are increasingly popular approaches to cesarean birth offered by some hospitals. Gentle cesareans involve small tweaks to a classic cesarean that can help create a more emotionally connective experience for the mother and baby. These tweaks include things like a clear or lowered drape so the mother can see the baby being born and locating monitors to the side so the baby can be placed on a mother’s chest immediately after birth“The Gentle Cesarean: More Like A Birth Than An Operation,” Jennifer Schmidt, NPR Health News, March 9, 2015, … Continue reading. Even if your hospital does not officially offer a gentle or family-centered cesarean, they may be able to accommodate its adaptations on a case-by-case basis.
Who can be in the operating room with me?
Most hospitals allow one support person to be in the operating room with you for a c-section. If allowed, you may choose whomever you like to be there, including your partner, parent, or a doula.
When will I see my baby?
For loss mamas, especially, being able to lay eyes, hearts, and arms on your baby is a deeply meaningful experience. You can ask questions about how quickly you will be able to do these things. Your care team will be able to tell you what their standard procedure is at their hospital for situations like yours. It may be possible for you to request changes to this procedure, such as immediate skin-to-skin.
What is the pain management plan?
Some mothers like to be sure that they do not receive anything that makes them drowsy during their baby’s first moments. If this is important to you, you can request that your pain management plan allows for alertness.
With an understanding that in any birth, including a cesarean, the unexpected can happen, the bottom line is that you can ask any questions you want of your care team. Even the act of asking those questions can help you have a positive experience with your c-section.
What to Pack
What you’ll need to pack is much the same regardless of the type of delivery you have. Experienced mothers will tell you that, ultimately, the hospital should have everything you need (except a carseat!). They will have soap, towels, robes, socks, and mesh underwear (make sure to get some to take home with you!). But you are welcome to pack a bag with items that will make you more comfortable while you are at the hospital, like your favorite fash wash or a special outfit for your baby. It’s also true that most c-section births include a hospital stay that is a bit longer than that needed for most vaginal births, so plan for a 2-4 day stay after your birth“Going home after a C-section,” October 5, 2020, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/discharge-instructions/going-home-after-a-c-section.
The biggest difference with respect to what to pack has to do with what you’ll want to wear home. After a c-section, you’ll want to wear clothing that won’t rub your incision. Soft and stretchy is the name of the game. Some c-section mamas love high-waisted pants that sit well above the incision, while others prefer something more loose and flowing like a dress or nightgown.
The Day Before
Since a c-section is a surgery, you should be prepared to follow the surgical protocol of your hospital. Your providers will make a point to tell you what you need to know. Generally, they will ask that you do three main things in the day prior to your c-section that help reduce the risk of complications.
Restrict solid food.
Your providers will ask that you restrict solid foods for eight hours prior to your surgery“Having a C-section? What pregnant women should know,” Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center, March 27, 2018, https://utswmed.org/medblog/c-section-what-to-know/. This is standard procedure for any surgery that uses anesthesia. When your stomach is empty, you are less likely to experience nausea and there is less chance that food or drink will end up somewhere they don’t belong, like your lungs“When to Stop Eating and Drinking,” UCLA Health, https://www.uclahealth.org/anes/fasting-guidelines.
Shower with antibacterial soap.
It has also become a standard procedure to ask surgical patients to shower with antibacterial soap one or more times in the day leading up to the surgery. Antibacterial soap will, of course, reduce the bacteria you have present on your skin. Less bacteria means less risk of infection. Your surgery team will also be careful to sterilize your abdomen and any tools they use during your c-section for the same reason. Because infection is a risk of any surgery, including c-sections, it is important you and your surgical team both do your part to mitigate the potential risk“C-section,” Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-section/about/pac-20393655.
It might feel intuitive to take one last pre-baby shower where you do all of your favorite self care rituals. While it is perfectly fine to take a long shower or put on a face mask, there is one thing you should avoid: shaving. Standard advice is to refrain from shaving your stomach or pubic area within 24 hours“C-section,” Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-section/about/pac-20393655 of a c-section. Shaving, even carefully, can leave teeny tiny cuts on the skin, which create a vulnerability to infection. That’s why part of reducing your risk of complications means taking a break from shaving during the day leading up to your c-section.
Plan for Recovery
Part of successfully preparing for a c-section includes preparing for what happens when you come home. You should know that after a c-section, you shouldn’t lift anything heavier than your baby for 6-8 weeks“Going home after a C-section,” October 5, 2020, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/discharge-instructions/going-home-after-a-c-section. You may need to plan for extra help to allow you to take proper care. Family, friends, and neighbors can all be good sources of help. But you can also get help through other channels, like strategic preparation (hello freezer meals!), ordering grocery delivery, or meal subscription services.
One more thing to plan for during your c-section recovery: As much as being gentle with yourself is important, it’s also important that you move often. The benefits are twofold: When you move, you reduce the risk of blood clots and speed up your healing.
You’ve got this, mama!
- C-Sections: Real Birth, Real Courage
- What the Pregnant after Loss Mom Packs in Her Hospital Bag
- What is a Doula and Do I Need One for my Pregnancy and Birth After Loss?
|↑1||“The Gentle Cesarean: More Like A Birth Than An Operation,” Jennifer Schmidt, NPR Health News, March 9, 2015, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/09/390977656/the-gentle-cesarean-more-like-a-birth-than-an-operation|
|↑2, ↑7||“Going home after a C-section,” October 5, 2020, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/discharge-instructions/going-home-after-a-c-section|
|↑3||“Having a C-section? What pregnant women should know,” Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center, March 27, 2018, https://utswmed.org/medblog/c-section-what-to-know/|
|↑4||“When to Stop Eating and Drinking,” UCLA Health, https://www.uclahealth.org/anes/fasting-guidelines|
|↑5, ↑6||“C-section,” Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-section/about/pac-20393655|