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Surprise! You're having a C-section

  • Unless a general anesthetic is used for your C-section, you should be able to start breastfeeding right away in the recovery room.
  • There's not a lot you need to do to prepare for a C-section in advance; you obstetric team will guide you through the process.

Learning a C-section is recommended isn't the news most women want to hear as their due date approaches. It's typically not part of the experience they were expecting, planning or hoping for. If a scheduled C-section is in your future, or if an unscheduled C-section suddenly becomes necessary, keep this in mind: you'll still be giving birth and adding a baby to your family; it's just how the baby comes out that changes.

And it might help you to know that we can address many of the things that women having C-sections are most worried about:

Holding and bonding with the baby right after birth.
We've come a long way in understanding both the bonding process between parents and their newborn and what needs to happen medically after a C-section. In most cases, you will be able to hold the baby right away, even while your doctor is still finishing the surgery. There are rare exceptions when medical concerns could delay this, but there are still things we can do to facilitate bonding in these circumstances.

Breastfeeding right after birth.
Unless a general anesthetic is used for the surgery, most women are able to start breastfeeding right away in the recovery room. You may need a little extra help to get started with positioning the baby, but your obstetric care team is there to support you.

Being advised to have a C-section when it's not really necessary.
There's a myth that obstetricians prefer C-sections over vaginal births for reasons that don't align with the mother's or infant's best interests. That's really not true. Above all else, obstetricians want healthy moms and healthy babies. It's all about risks and benefits. When the risks of labor or vaginal delivery outweigh the risks of a C-section for either the mother or the baby, the obstetrician will recommend a C-section. Your doctor should be able to explain to you why he or she believes a C-section is safer than a vaginal birth for you or your baby, and should encourage you to ask any questions you have.

Feeling unprepared.
The good news is, everything you do to prepare for a healthy pregnancy and a vaginal birth also helps you prepare for a C-section. That means adopting a healthy lifestyle, with a healthy weight, balanced diet, regular exercise and no smoking. All of these promote a healthy pregnancy and reduce your risks during delivery. Beyond that, there's not a lot you need to do to prepare for a C-section in advance; you obstetric team will guide you through the process.

Recovering from a C-section.
A C-section is major surgery, and there will be pain afterward. But we can offer many options for pain control and general relaxation, from pain medications that are safe for you (and your baby if you are breastfeeding), to aromatherapy, relaxation exercises and massage. Also, one thing that really helps is to get up and move around as soon as possible. In most circumstances, you don't have to remain in bed once the anesthesia wears off. It will be uncomfortable at first, but it will help your body to recover faster, and your pain will improve more quickly as you gradually become more active.

Whether you are delivering vaginally or by C-section, communication and collaboration with your doctor and the obstetric care team is critical. It's important for you to understand their perspective and concerns, and it's equally important for them to understand yours. Feeling comfortable with your care team ahead of time will go a long way in making your birth experience, however it happens, the perfect way for you to welcome your new baby.


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