5 questions you should have the answers to before having a c-section.

Sophie Walker from Australian Birth Stories recognised a major gap in birth education and recently launched The Caesarean Birth Class - the informative and empowering online course that offers education and guidance for caesarean preparation, birth, and recovery. 

For too long, birth education has focused solely on labour and vaginal birth. But considering that 37 per cent of Australian babies are born via caesarean (up from 32 per cent in 2010), relevant birth education that focuses on caesarean birth and recovery is desperately needed. It’s for this exact reason that I created my online birth education course The Caesarean Birth Class which encourages caesarean mums to actively prepare for their birth and plan for their recovery. 

So do you have any say in how your caesarean birth unfolds? Yes, you absolutely do! And an increasing number of obstetricians are encouraging caesarean birth plans because they understand the connection between woman-centred care in the operating theatre and positive maternal outcomes. Indeed, there’s a distinct shift from passive surgery to active birth which emphasises the fact that you’re the one birthing your baby, despite the assistance you’ll have on the day.

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Video via Mamamia.

If you’ve marked your planned caesarean date on the calendar and you’re eagerly counting down the days, here’s five questions you should have the answers to before you’re admitted to hospital:


1. Have you written your birth preferences? 

Not much in life (or birth) goes to plan but having a list of preferences ensures that you are advocating for what you want in the operating theatre. You can write a plan that details:

  • Music. Prepare a birth playlist and listen to it throughout pregnancy so you feel more at ease in the operating theatre. 

  • Conversation. No doubt you’ll want everyone in the room to focus on your experience and your baby’s arrival (and not their holiday plans). 

  • Skin to skin. If having your baby directly on your chest is a priority for you, you need to communicate this with your birth team before you’re taken to the operating theatre.

  • Optimal cord clamping. Also known as delayed cord clamping, this is when your obstetrician waits up to one minute post-birth to cut the cord so that your baby receives as much blood from the placenta as possible. The health benefits are profound but the one minute time limit needs to be adhered to because of the cold temperature in the operating theatre and the heightened risks to you and your baby. 

2. Do you understand the process of a caesarean birth or do you feel overwhelmed by the unknown?

Fear is a really normal and expected part of pregnancy but it’s always best to acknowledge it and actively let go of it before you birth your baby. There is a lot about a caesarean birth that can feel overwhelming and if you are starting to get anxious about the experience, it’s best to inform yourself about the whole process so nothing comes as a surprise. 

Start a conversation with your obstetrician about what you can expect on the day including what will happen after admission, when you get to theatre, the process of getting an epidural/spinal block, the birth, recovery, and eventually what the first 24 hours will look like on the maternity ward. If you’ve got questions about pain relief and movement after birth, ask them in your third trimester. You really will feel so much better once you’re informed and prepared. 

3. Do you want the opportunity to lift your baby from your belly to your chest?

Some women admit that they have a primal urge to lift their baby up and onto their chest, despite the fact that they are planning a caesarean birth. Enter a Maternal Assisted Caesarean (MAC), where the birthing mother is scrubbed in and pulls her baby from her belly and onto her bare chest with her gloved hands. It’s not available in every hospital but a growing number of obstetricians are recognising the benefits of this active form of caesarean birth and are supporting women and their birth partners to achieve it. Granted, it’s not for everyone, but a MAC gives caesarean mums birth options and that’s precisely what we should all have access to - regardless of how and where we’re birthing. 

Listen to Mamamia's podcast The Delivery Room. On this episode, we learn about the realities of a planned c-section. Post continues below.


4. How do you want to be supported in recovery? 

If all goes well in the operating theatre, you’ll generally spend an hour in recovery where you’ll have a midwife taking care of you and your baby. If you’re intent on breastfeeding your baby, this is generally when you’ll have skin-to-skin so your baby can latch and feed for the first time. It’s important to bear in mind that you’ll have little movement, you’ll have a cannula in your hand, and you’ll typically have monitors on your chest. Breastfeeding after a caesarean can be difficult but with preparation and the right support, it is definitely possible. Remember: prioritising skin-to-skin is a big first step towards a successful breastfeeding journey. 

5. Do you have support garments on hand to assist your recovery?

Ask any obstetrician or women’s health physio and they’ll sing the praises of support garments to aid your movement and recovery post-caesarean. Tubigrip, support shorts or leggings can help facilitate movement by supporting your core and incision which ultimately makes you feel more confident in your body and your ability to balance. Consider them an essential in your hospital bag! 

Sophie Walker is the founder and host of Australian Birth Stories podcast that has over 9.7 million downloads and is endorsed by the Australian College of Midwives. She also has a range of education resources available, including her online birth preparation course, The Birth Class. Every week on the podcast she shares an interview with a woman who steps into her most vulnerable space to detail all the precious details of her pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. Each story is unique hence the podcast is an amazing education resource for pregnant women, their birth support partners and professionals working in perinatal health.

Feature Image: Getty.

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