How to prepare for your c-section
You may want to plan ahead in case you need a c-section or if you know you’ll be having one. Thinking about what you’d like to happen during and after the birth can help to make things easier later on.
Your c-section birth plan
You can use your birth plan to write down anything that is important to you about your pregnancy and the birth. Your healthcare team will try to meet your wishes where possible. Your midwife can help you think about what you would like, for example:
- who you would like to have with you at the birth
- taking music to play during the birth
- taking a camera – ask your midwife if you can take pictures in the operating theatre
- asking for the screen to be lowered so you can see your baby being born – if you don’t want to have a screen, speak to your doctor to find out if this will be possible
- asking for silence during the birth so that your voice is the first your baby hears
- making sure your healthcare team practises delayed or optimal cord clamping to increase the amount of blood your baby gets from the placenta
- skin-to-skin contact with your baby in theatre or skin-to-skin contact between your baby and your birth partner.
"It’s worth thinking about what you want your birth partner to do if your baby needs to go to the neonatal unit. One of my twins was taken to the neonatal unit during my c-section. Thankfully I had already told my birth partner that I wanted her to go with my baby, rather than staying with me."
Getting ready at home
A c-section is a major operation and you will need time to recover. This can take about 6 weeks but may take longer.
If possible, ask friends and family for help when you come home from hospital. Ideally, you should have someone to help you at home day and night for at least the first 2 weeks.
If you have older children, prepare them for what they can expect when you come home. You won’t be able to pick them up but they can climb gently on to your lap while you’re sitting on the sofa, or they could cuddle up next to you.
"I arranged extra childcare for my older son in the 6 weeks following my c-section. This really helped give me extra time to rest. I asked friends and family to collect him."
Read more about recovering at home after a c-section.
Tips for preparing your home
You’ll need a few things at home for after your baby is born. There are also some extra things you can do if you’re having a c-section:
- bring all your baby items closer to your bed and sofa so you can reach them without getting up
- keep a nappy bin close to where you’ll be changing nappies
- have lots of pillows on the sofa
- buy cotton pants that are high enough to cover your c-section wound, such as full briefs that come up to your waist
- buy a few cotton maternity bras – you may find these more comfortable than underwired bras, whether or not you plan to breastfeed
- wear comfortable, loose clothes – your maternity clothes are ideal
- use cushions or pillows to make feeding your baby more comfortable – you can buy v-shaped or breastfeeding pillows if you prefer
- stock up on paracetamol, maternity pads and breast pads
- freeze meals or ask family or friends to make some meals, so you don’t have to cook for the first few days after coming home
- have a supply of peppermint tea, which can be soothing and relieves painful trapped wind.
‘I used a coat hanger to pick things up off the floor. I also had pain relief, bottles of water and nappy changing supplies in different parts of the house so I didn’t have to go up and down the stairs too often.’
What to take to hospital if you’re having a c-section
When you’re packing your hospital bag for the birth, you may want to add some extra items to help you before and after your c-section, such as:
- entertainment (books, magazines, tablet, headphones) to help pass the time before going in to the operating theatre
- cotton or disposable pants that come up to your waist – regular pants may rub your c-section wound and make it sore
- a dressing gown or shawl for privacy and to keep you and your baby warm during skin-to-skin contact
- a nightdress for the first night in hospital – you will have a catheter for at least 12 hours after your c-section and so you won’t be able to wear pyjama bottoms
- slippers or soft shoes for walking around the hospital ward
- loose, comfortable clothes that won’t put pressure on your wound – for example, a long dress will cover up your compression stockings, and a top with buttons may be easier for breastfeeding
- a feeding pillow, to make feeding your baby more comfortable
- extra supplies, such as maternity pads, to last you 2-4 days in hospital
- wet wipes and flannels for freshening up until you’re able to have a shower
- chewing gum to get the bowel working and peppermint tea bags or cordial, or peppermint oil capsules, to help relieve wind – it can take a few hours or days after surgery for your bowel to start working again and this can cause painful trapped wind.
Your midwife can give you advice on what to take with you.
Your midwife will ask you to remove any make-up, nail polish, piercings or contact lenses before your c-section. You will also need to take off any jewellery. You can usually wear one plain ring, such as a wedding ring, which will be taped in place.
Shaving or waxing before a c-section
Your midwife may ask you to stop shaving or waxing your bikini area a few days before your c-section. This is to reduce the risk of your c-section wound becoming infected. This may vary from hospital to hospital, so speak to your midwife about how to prepare your skin before the operation.
Eating and drinking before a c-section
Your midwife will ask you to stop eating and drinking a few hours before your c-section. They may also give you some medicine to take before your c-section. This includes antibiotics, anti-sickness medication and medicine to reduce the acidity in your stomach. If you’re having a planned c-section, your midwife will give you information on how to prepare for the operation.
- Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (2020). Elective caesarean birth. https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/maternity/elective-caesarean-section.pdf
- Joint Formulary Committee (2021). British National Formulary. Peppermint oil. London: BMJ Group and Pharmaceutical Press https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/peppermint-oil.html#breastfeeding
- NHS. Caesarean section: recovery. www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/ (Page last reviewed: 27/06/2019. Next review due: 27/06/2022)
- NHS. Caesarean section: What happens. www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/what-happens/ (Page last reviewed: 27/06/2019. Next review due: 27/06/2022)
- NICE (2021). Caesarean birth: NICE guideline 192. National Institute for health and care excellence www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng192
- Wen Z et al (2017) Chewing gum for intestinal function recovery after caesarean section: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017 Apr 18; 17(1): 105.