You may think a Cesarean won't happen to you, but with the
rising rates of Cesarean birth no one can be totally sure. In many
places Cesarean rates account for between 30-35 percent of
"I think it should be a discussion that's had as a part of
prenatal care. I think people have a fear that if they bring it up
it's going to happen," says Dr. Perpetua Goodall, an
obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Chicago Medical
Sandy Clark, mother of four children all born Cesarean, admits
she and her husband barely looked at the film about the C-section
in the prenatal classes. So while she was surprised to find herself
in the middle of a Cesarean, she says it didn't seem like a
terrible idea after many hours of labor.
"If you need an escape hatch, whatever you have to do to relieve
my pain is OK," she says. "You just want to know that your baby is
Planned Cesareans can be a result of things like previous
Cesarean births, a low-lying placenta that covers the cervix
(placenta previa), breech presentation or an active infection such
as herpes, Goodall says. Unplanned Cesareans happen when the baby
isn't tolerating labor, failure to progress in dilation or
hemorrhage. A C-section will be performed anytime there is a
serious risk to mother or infant.
"If it's an emergency situation things may happen very quickly.
You really don't have a chance to mull it over," Goodall says.
What's the experience of a Cesarean?
The mother will be given medication to make her numb, but she
will stay awake through the procedure. Depending on a particular
women's situation, the cut will either be made classical
(vertically through the abdomen) or traverse (horizontally at the
The surgery will last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour
depending on the surgeon and whether or not there is scar tissue
from previous abdominal surgery to cut through.
After the surgery is complete the mother is wheeled away to a
recovery room where she will sleep, usually until her medication
begins to wane.
For the first 24 hours the pain is controlled with opiate
derivatives given through an IV. If you choose to breastfeed, your
baby will be brought to you for feeding and you'll need help
getting into a comfortable position.
"Breastfeeding (causes) the uterus to contract. That's an added
ouch," Clark says.
A Cesarean may dampen your desire to breastfeed, but it does not
disturb the flow of the milk, so if you choose to you still
The average patient stays in the hospital for two to three days
after surgery. Of great concern will be your first bowel movement
and passing gas because the bowel can be very sluggish after
surgery, especially if it was moved out of the way, Goodall says.
You'll be given stool softeners in the hospital (and often to take
home with you) because the pain medications also make many women
When you go home your doctor will tell you to avoid driving,
putting anything in the vagina (tampons or douche), all
intercourse, heavy stair climbing or other exercise and not to lift
anything over 10 pounds. If your Cesarean was caused by an
oversized baby you'll be allowed to pick the baby up, but
If your incision was closed with stitches you'll need to see
your doctor between three and seven days after surgery to have them
removed, which for most people is painless and quick.
The most important thing-aside from taking care of your bundle
of joy-is to take care of yourself. That means resting, following
doctor's orders and staying on top of the pain. The medications are
safe for breastfeeding mothers, Goodall says.
Remember that you'll need help once you're home. If your bedroom
and the baby's room are on different floors, have your caregiver
move everything into one room on the same floor so that you have
less moving to do. Most importantly, let people help if they
Some women also experience a brief depression over not being
able to deliver vaginally.
"I think they feel a sense of loss, like they are missing out on
something," says Goodall. "When you're growing up as a woman and
you think about what your delivery will be like you do not think
about having a C-section."
Within six to 12 weeks you will be completely healed and able to
resume all functions though you may have bouts with scar tissue,
numbness or deciding how to approach subsequent births.
Christy Bonstell spends most of her time making people laugh. The best laughs are the ones she gets from her son, Keagan.
See more of Christy's stories here.
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