A caesarean section is an operation to allow the baby to be born without going through the birth canal. A caesarean section can be planned (elective) or unplanned (emergency). As a caesarean section is considered to be major surgery, it is only performed if there is a clinical need, following discussion between you and the obstetrician. The baby is born through an incision or opening in your tummy just below the bikini line. The midwife will come with you to theatre and will care for your baby when it is born.
Sometimes it is possible for your birth partner to come with you to the theatre for the birth. This will depend on how urgent your caesarean section is. Also, the obstetrician and anaesthetist must agree that it’s ok. If your partner can’t come with you, the midwife will stay with you throughout the operation; your birth partner will wait outside the theatre and will see your baby as soon as possible after birth.
If possible, the operation is performed under epidural or spinal anaesthetic. (A spinal anaesthetic is like an epidural but the drugs are injected into the fluid surrounding the lower spinal cord). A general anaesthetic (which puts you to sleep) is sometimes necessary in emergency situations when the baby needs to be delivered very quickly and an epidural tube is not in place. If you have the caesarean section under epidural or spinal, you will be awake throughout the operation. You won’t feel any pain but you may feel some tugging as your baby is born. The operation takes about 30 – 40 minutes but the baby is usually born within the first ten minutes. A curtain or divider will prevent you and your partner from seeing the operation being performed. Once the baby is born and providing you and your baby are both well, the baby can be placed directly on your chest for skin to skin contact. If you are unable for skin to skin contact at this time, your partner will be given your baby to hold skin to skin.
Diet after surgery
Once you are fully awake after surgery, you will be offered sips of water. Usually you can have tea/coffee and toast about four hours after surgery. If you are feeling ok after this we can stop the intravenous fluids. You will be offered a ’light diet’ for the next day or so. You will be ready for a full diet when your bowel is working properly again – either by passing wind or having a bowel motion.
The catering staff will offer you a daily menu choice. If you would like something other than what is on the menu please ask the catering officer. Fruit or nuts can be a good snack especially when you are breastfeeding. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and constipation.
Care of your wound
The wound dressing is removed 72 hours after surgery. You can then have a shower and you should pat dry the wound rather than rubbing it. The wound must be kept clean and dry to prevent an infection. The midwife will check your wound every day. You may have dissolvable stitches, or clips or beads, which will be removed after four or five days. Sometimes the doctor may ask us to leave them in place for a day or two longer. Wear panties that come up above your wound, to avoid friction on the wound site. The physiotherapist will visit you after the operation and she will advise you on postnatal exercises.
Caring for your baby
Your baby will stay at your bedside on the postnatal ward, unless your baby needs admission to the neonatal unit. If you are breastfeeding the midwife will help you and show you different positions to hold your baby so that they will not hurt your wound. The staff will help you to become confident in caring for your baby.
Preparing for discharge
You will know the evening before your discharge that you will most likely be going home the following day. Ask your partner to bring in your clothes and the baby’s clothes and car seat for going home. We will try to have you ready for home by 11 am. We will advise you where to go for your six week postnatal check up. Try to feed your baby just before going home as this will help to keep your baby settled while you are travelling and will give you some time to get settled in at home.
It is common to feel tired after the operation, so try to get as much rest as possible at home. Don’t be afraid to accept help from family or friends with caring for your baby. Avoid lifting heavy objects and driving for six to eight weeks after the operation.