I did not plan for a C-section. In fact, every part of my “birth plan” had the end goal of avoiding a C-section. However, nothing went according to my plan.
I went the midwife route. She was (and still is, of course) fully accredited. Only about 1 in 25 of her patients ended up needing to have a surgical birth, compared to the 1 in 3 national average. I knew that meant I was in the right place.
Well, I was that one person out of 25. After five hours of pushing and a stuck baby, we both knew that I wasn’t getting Annabelle out on my own, so it was off to the hospital. (I won’t recount my whole birth story, but you can read it here if you’d like.)
I had never been to this particular hospital in my life. I knew absolutely no one here. My midwife did not have any privileges here and could not accompany me, though she called ahead to fill them in on my situation. This wasn’t my plan, remember?
That was the problem.
I was in such denial that a C-section would ever be the outcome of my birth that I made zero preparations. I wouldn’t even entertain the possibility in the ten months leading up to this day. So I had almost no say in what happened.
Here are the things to consider when you plan for a C-Section (even if you never end up having one):
What are the deciding factors for a C-Section? What are the situations that will prompt your doctor to suggest or demand a C-section? If you know what to watch for, it won’t come as a total surprise. Which situations are simply recommendations where you have the final say (labor is taking a long time) and which are true emergencies.
Where will the surgery take place? If you’re like me and started out in the birthing center, you’ll need to pick a hospital. When you wait until the actual need arises, you’ll be heading to wherever is closest (which you’ll probably want to do anyways). However, if I could have a “do-over,” I would establish a relationship with that hospital and those doctors beforehand so I wouldn’t be a completely unknown patient coming in. As a new patient, I had to get ALL of my blood work redone while waiting for surgery — not fun. I also had months of insurance screw-ups to fix when I got home because they didn’t ask me when I arrived and they got it wrong.
What type of anesthesia will be administered? You might not have a choice, but it’s good to know what the options are and in which specific situations they would be used, as well as the recovery process for each. The three main options are epidural, spinal block (that was what I had..and you’re pretty much paralyzed for an entire day), and general anesthesia (aka lights out!)
Who is allowed to be in the room with you? Likely only one other person (for me it was my husband) and only if you are not under general anesthesia. Make sure that person is ready to act fast when it’s “go time.” They will have mere minutes to change into scrubs.
Will you be strapped down? I wasn’t asked if I was ok with this, and it came as a surprise to be fully restrained. I hated feeling like I was a prisoner. Your doctor may prefer this, and again, you migt not have a choice, but ask! At the very least, you might ask if you can be un-shackled to hold your baby.
Do you want skin-to-skin with your newborn? You’ll have to ask for it. Everything happened so fast in my case and I didn’t know I had to ask (or demand!) to hold my baby immediately after birth. I was doped up and exhausted after 20+ hours of labor and I didn’t know my rights. They whisked my baby away before I knew what was happening and I will forever miss that moment. You shouldn’t have to ask, but in many cases this is the reality. Make your wishes very clear beforehand and make sure that the person in the room with you will stand up for you if you are too out of it.
Do you plan to breastfeed? Make it known! You might end up in a recovery room while your baby is carted off to the nursery. If breastfeeding is a priority and both you and the baby are healthy, make sure that there is NO mistake and insist that they bring your baby to you at regular intervals to try. (If they “let you rest” and feed the baby formula at first, this can make establishing breastfeeding more difficult). I DID get this across to my nurses and I had an hour with Annabelle while in the recovery room to try (we were both exhausted and fell asleep), and then they brought her back a while later to try again (success!) Do not be shy to ask for any and all resources available to you!
How long will you be in the hospital? Ask in advance what the standard hospital stay is for post c-section recovery and what the doctor will look for before allowing you to go home. I was actually discharged on the early side (2 days post-op) but we ended up staying for 5 days while Annabelle was treated for jaundice.
Where will my incision be located? The scar for me was such a worry, and it is an adjustment to see at first. I was scared to look at it, much less touch it! We are fortunate that every attempt is made to leave minimal scarring, and the incision is usually located below your bikini line. (In most cases, it will barely be visible in a year’s time, so don’t freak out like I did at first!) However, there are still exceptions. You don’t want a surprise here, so ask what the plan is and in what case (if any) would there be a change this plan.
The point of me writing this is not to scare you…I promise! I would never recommend electing a C-section if it is not medically necessary because it IS a major surgery, BUT it is not the end of the world and if it gets your baby here safely then that is the most important thing.
The point of me writing this is to share what a huge mistake it was for me to have no plan in place for the possibility of my birth being a C-section. With no plan, I was at the mercy of the doctors. They had no personal relationship with me and their goal was likely to get me in and out of surgery as quickly as possible and go on with their morning. The doctor I ended up with had terrible bedside manner, but I was VERY lucky that she was apparently a skilled surgeon.
If you are planning for a vaginal birth or a fully natural birth, I hope with all my heart that is what you get. However, life has a funny way of changing things up on you, so having an “alternate” birth plan (and a plan for a c-section) can help ensure that your birth experience is still a positive one.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional; this post is an opinion piece and should not be taken as medical advice.
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