How to prepare for your c-section

Find out how to prepare for your C-section by creating a birth plan, what to have ready at home and what should be on your hospital bag checklist.

You may want to plan ahead in case you need a caesarean section (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. You may want to talk to your midwife about:

  • who you would like to have with you at the birth
  • taking music to be played in the theatre
  • taking a camera – ask your midwife if you can take pictures in the 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 at all, 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.

‘I wanted to see my baby being born. But nobody offered because they thought I’d ask, and I didn’t ask because I thought they would offer.’Facebook user

‘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.’Jane

Preparing for your c-section recovery at home

A c-section is a major operation and you will need time to rest afterwards. It can take about six weeks to recover.

Your wound will feel sore and uncomfortable at first so you may find it difficult to get in and out of bed or to stand upright. You won’t be able to lift anything heavy or do any heavy housework, like vacuuming, until you feel ready.

If you can, 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 two 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 six weeks following my c-section. This really helped give me extra time to rest. I asked friends and family to collect him.’Charlie

Tips for preparing your home:

  • bring things closer to your bed and sofa so you can reach them without getting up
  • 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
  • buy a v-shaped or breastfeeding pillow to make feeding your baby more comfortable
  • stock up on paracetamol for pain relief, maternity pads and breast pads
  • freeze meals so you don’t have to cook for the first few days after coming home
  • have a supply of peppermint tea, which women have said is 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.’Charlie

What to take to hospital if you’re having a c-section

When you are packing your bag for the birth, you may want to add a few items to help you before and after your c-section, such as:

  • entertainment (books, magazines, films or music) 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 cause soreness
  • 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 won’t press on your wound and 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.

You won’t be able to wear make-up, nail polish or contact lenses during the operation. You will also need to take off any jewellery, apart from one plain ring, such as a wedding ring, which will be taped in place.

Shaving or waxing before a c-section

Lots of women wonder whether they should shave or wax their bikini area before a c-section. It is not something you have to do. The doctors and midwives doing your surgery will not judge you either way.

Some women prefer to wax or shave their bikini before a c-section because the wound dressing is quite sticky and removing or changing it can be uncomfortable if there is a lot of hair.

Eating and drinking before a c-section

Usually, you should not eat or drink anything for around six to eight hours before the caesarean. Your midwife should confirm this with you if you’re going in for a planned c-section.

Read more about what happens during a c-section here

Sources

  1. Encarnacion B, Zlatnik MG (2012) Cesarean delivery technique: evidence or tradition? A review of the evidence-based cesarean delivery. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 67(8): 483-94.
  2. NHS Choices (2016) [Accessed 15 March 2018] Caesarean section: recovery. www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/
  3. Pereira Gomes Morais E et al. (2016) Chewing gum for enhancing early recovery of bowel function after caesarean section. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 10. Art. No.: CD011562.
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Last reviewed on April 24th, 2018. Next review date April 24th, 2021.

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