Advice about a caesarean birth
This has been compiled by caesarean mothers, and various antenatal teachers including myself.
A caesarean birth IS still a birth. It is still very special. Some babies just do come that way.
It could happen to you. Accept that it may
Fear of the unknown.
Don’t stay in the dark – read, talk, contact CS support group, go online, talk to midwives and doctors, antenatal teachers.
Get your questions answered.
Write your questions down, and the answers. If you can do this is before the birth, you are likely to feel more involved and more positive. Afterwards, make sure you talk the experience over with your midwife or consultant, partner, friends, or ante-natal teacher. Partners need to talk too. Consider contacting your local caesarean support group (via local NCT branch, or sometimes the hospital).
Accept your feelings.
You may have a lovely, healthy baby yet still feel negative. Find someone to listen, someone who will not judge. Remember, mums who had babies vaginally often feel negative too.
Loss of Expectation.
Possibly for months you have been planning this birth. Your plans go out of the window, and you feel a sense of loss. Feel free to grieve this loss, and the end (loss) of your pregnancy.
A caesarean birth can feel very quick and unreal, even if you are expecting it. You may be left wondering what a vaginal birth would have been like. Equally, it is very common for mums who had vaginal births also to feel disappointed, angry, guilty, or they could have done better. This is an experience common to all births.
People being insensitive.
Some may say you took the easy way out, this is not true. This is a different experience from vaginal birth, but is still a birth. Chances are it takes longer to recover from a CS, and is more risky, hardly an easy way out.
People may try to make you ‘feel better’ by making light of your experience, but it is important to trust yourself and your own feelings. It is different for everyone.
During a vaginal birth, the pain is often described as positive. With a CS it may feel negative. You may have had a particularly difficult and painful labour, leading to the caesarean operation. You are also likely to feel more pain after a caesarean birth than you would with a vaginal birth. Seeing your pain as positive may help you to adjust to the experience. Your pain is a necessary part of achieving what you wanted – a baby.
Feelings of guilt.
What did I do wrong? Understand why this caesarean was necessary, remember you have succeeded in having your baby, against the odds. Forgive yourself. It is a triumph, not a failure!
If you feel depressed or unhappy for more than a few days or weeks, you like many others (mums and dads) may have a degree of post-natal depression. This may not be because you had a caesarean birth; it may be because things did not go as expected.
There are many other changes involved with having a baby that can lead many parents to feel depressed for a while. Talk to someone, your midwife/health visitor/doctor/counsellor/antenatal teacher/friends/family. Do get help, because it will not go away on its own.
Vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC)
It is very likely you can have a vaginal delivery with your next baby, if you have one. Your chances are almost as high as any mother having her first baby.
Talk to your consultant if you have one, your midwife, your antenatal teacher, and the NCT caesarean support group.
There is lots of info online including from NCT. Make sure you understand the reason for your CS - most do not recur.
There is a strong movement in the UK towards more straightforward deliveries - you can be part of it!
Physical and practical
Immediately after the op.
You will be in hospital for 2-3 days, more if needed.
You will have a drip in your arm or hand: you may need help to hold your baby.
You are likely to need painkillers, for example pethedine or paracetamol. Ask – don’t wait until you feel worse. Your epidural may remain in place for a while and provide helpful pain relief.
You will have stitches. Protect them using pillows as you cuddle your baby or older children. Keep the scar clean and dry. Bathe in the shower, sitting on a chair helps. Dab dry with paper towels to avoid fluff sticking to the scar. Let as much fresh air as possible to the scar.
Knickers! High waist knickers will be more comfortable for a while. Slip-on slippers are easier too, as you don’t need to bend down.
To get out of bed. bring both knees to your chest (or in that direction) to protect your wound. Then roll carefully to the edge of the bed. Use your arm muscles to support yourself, especially while the epidural means you cannot use your legs. At first you will need someone with you.
To avoid the risk of blood clots, an increased risk in anyone after a major operation, it is essential to get out of bed as early as you can, and every day. This also prevents bedsores, which can develop after as little as 12 hours when you are bedbound.
Watch for signs of infection:
- Unusual discharge from the wound
- Heaviness inside
- Increased pain
Crampy pains after the birth. Afterpains are most likely in the first few days. They can be worrying, if you do not know that these after-pains are normal. They are contractions of the womb getting back to normal size. Talk to your midwife or doctor.
Support your scar with pillow or hands when you cough sneeze or laugh, and when you roll out of bed.
Use several pillows in bed while feeding. Try feeding on the over-bed table. Or hold baby tucked under one arm, head towards your breast. Or lie on your side. Sit in an upright chair, with somewhere within reach to put baby down afterwards. It can be impossible to move or put baby down if you are in bed. All of these help whether bottle or breast feeding.
Complementary remedies such as homeopathy, herbs, acupuncture, cranial osteopathy, can be helpful with pain, wound healing, emotional adjustment, colicky babies and much more.
Keep upright; stand and sit ‘tall’. Use a chair with back support. Slumping will lead to back pain and shoulder strain. An upright back is essential to protect your tummy muscles and also avoid back strain.
If you are in any doubt, or if you are having trouble getting mobile, ask to see the obstetric physiotherapist, or talk it through with your antenatal teacher if she is qualified.
Suggestions for first exercises:
1. Tummy muscles. Lie on your back with legs on the bed. Draw your navel towards your spine. Press the small of your back onto the bed. Try to breathe normally. Repeat 5 times. Repeat this set 3-4 times daily.
2. Circulation. Flex your ankles then point your toes. Roll your feet in a circle, alternate directions. Repeat frequently.
3. Circulation. Lying on your back, tighten your bottom muscles and hold for a count of ten, if you can. Repeat 3 times. Then bend and straighten each knee in turn, five times. Repeat this set 3-4 times daily.
4. Pelvic floor exercises are just as important after a caesarean birth. Do sets of ten as often as you can, ideally a minimum total of 50 a day.
Going to the loo.
This can be a worry at first. If you have been catheterised, you may be anxious about passing urine. Don’t delay, empty your bladder regularly, and drink plenty to dilute the urine. You will need extra time to make it to the toilet.
These things can help get you started:
- Pouring warm water between your legs as you sit on the toilet
- Have a wee in the shower
- Have a wee in a bidet with the water running.
If your bowels are sluggish, you can ask the midwife for a suppository to help, or take a small amount of a laxative. Don’t wait until you are desperately uncomfortable. This is just the same after a vaginal birth. Extra water, fruit and fibre help keep your poo soft.
Save unnecessary trips by having duplicates of important things both up and down stairs:
- a changing table and all the kit
- somewhere for both you and baby to nap
- a kettle and drinks
- have food, drink and other necessities within reach
You may qualify for home help for a while, you will be means tested but it could be invaluable. See your local council/Social services. You may opt to pay someone privately for a while.
Emergency help and visitors.
All your visitors like to know how they can help – don’t be shy to tell them! Unloading the washing machine, taking things upstairs, hoovering, hanging things on the line, collecting shopping (which you can order by phone or online). All these are hard when your scar is new. Visitors could even take your baby out for a walk in the pram if you felt happy about that.
Pay someone to do your ironing or cleaning, if you can afford it.
ENJOY YOUR BABY AND WELL DONE!
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Optimal Foetal Positioning may contribute to an easier birth.
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Breastfeeding: Natural and Homeopathic Remedies
Tips on encouraging breast milk, and more.
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