You and your doctor have decided that a cesarean section delivery is indicated for the delivery of your baby. To help make this special day go smoothly, we would like to take a few moments to explain more about what you may expect during your surgery and hospital stay.
Since there are many variables that must be taken into account with regard to the timing of a cesarean section, only your doctor can decide when it is the right time to perform your surgery. This decision is based on your medical needs as well as the needs of your baby. If you have had an uncomplicated pregnancy and this is a scheduled cesarean section, your surgery will frequently be performed at 39 weeks gestation or a week before your due date. At this stage of pregnancy, the baby’s lungs are mature and the baby is ready for life outside of the uterus. However, other medical concerns for either you or your baby may dictate that your surgery may need to be performed prior to this time.
The night before your cesarean section is often a time of nervous anticipation. As you await the arrival of your new baby, it is understandable to feel a little anxiety about your surgery. If you have everything you will need for your hospital stay already packed, this will often help to reduce your nervousness. Try to retire early the night before in order to feel rested for your baby’s arrival. Remember to follow your doctor’s instructions as to when you should avoid eating or drinking so that you will have an empty stomach during your surgery. This will minimize any nausea issues that you may experience.
You will be told when to arrive at the labor and delivery department which will normally be a few hours before your anticipated surgery time. Before your surgery, monitoring of your baby is routinely performed and an intravenous line is started through which intravenous fluid is given. It is important that you arrive promptly at the time you were given so these preparations can be performed and your surgery can start on time.
After the nurses have helped to prepare you for your surgery, an anesthesiologist or anesthetist will help to make you comfortable. This is most often done by placing an epidural or spinal in your lower back through which medications can be given. This type of anesthesia will help you avoid discomfort during surgery but allow you to remain awake so you can hear your baby’s first cry. Occasionally, a patient may require general anesthesia for her cesarean delivery which means she will be asleep during the procedure.
Once in the operating room, a catheter will be placed in your bladder, a small area of your pubic hair may be removed with electric clippers and your abdomen will be painted with an antibacterial solution to reduce the chance of infection. After loosely securing your arms and legs so they will not fall off the table during surgery, a drape is placed on your abdomen which will keep the surgical area sterile and minimize the chance of infection. A loved one, such as your partner, is often allowed to sit with you at the head of the operating table during your surgery.
A cesarean section usually takes less than thirty minutes to perform. This may occasionally take additional time if scar tissue is present from prior surgeries or more than one baby is to be delivered, such as with twins.
After your surgery, you will want to rest for the first several hours. Once your cesarean section is completed, you will be returned to your room and your baby can be brought to you when you feel ready. Your doctor will allow you to begin eating later that evening or the next morning. Your diet will start with clear liquids first and then slowly work up to solid foods. The bladder catheter will also be removed and you will be started on pain medication by mouth.
As you start walking, you may initially feel a little dizzy so always have someone assist you the first few times you get up to walk until you feel that you can do so safely on your own. If your incision is consistently painful while walking, consider talking to your doctor about using an abdominal binder to help support your stomach muscles as you recover from surgery.
The average hospital stay for a cesarean section delivery varies among patients, but averages two to four days, so be sure to bring those items you will need to help make your stay both pleasant and comfortable.
At the time of discharge from the hospital, you will be provided with pain medication by your doctor to help you remain comfortable as you continue to recover from surgery. While at home, it will be important to continue to rest, drink adequate fluids and minimize unnecessary exertion. As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid lifting items that weigh more than your baby during your first few weeks home.
Keeping your incision clean will be important as will avoiding tight or restrictive clothing that may place unnecessary pressure on your incision while it heals. Showers will be fine but most doctors discourage submerging your incision below water, as with baths, until you are more fully healed. Avoid exercise, heavy lifting and intimacy until your physician informs you that you are adequately healed to resume normal activities.
The goal of your doctor and the medical team assisting them is to make this a special day with a safe delivery for both you and your baby. We hope this brief explanation will help to make your surgery and hospital stay more pleasant. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to discuss them with your doctor.