The Complete Guide to Handling a C-Section Like a Pro
This guide is brought to you by Gravida, a postpartum support organization offering on-demand courses and advice to expecting and new moms. Gravida is run by Morgan Michalowski, a Nurse Midwife, Lactation Consultant, and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner. Morgan is also an Expert on the SocialMama app.
Ready for your Cesarean Section?
To prepare for the big day, ask your OB these questions:
- How many hours before my c-section should I stop eating and drinking?
- Do I need to discontinue or avoid any medications prior to surgery?
- Do I need to shower before coming to the hospital? Or use a special antiseptic soap or wash?
- Do I need to shave my bikini line?
It’s baby time! These things need to happen before you meet your baby:
- Be admitted to the hospital where your care team will explain what to expect and obtain signed consent. You can expect a physical exam, blood draw, IV, and IV fluids. Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored before and during the c-section.
- Go back to the OR (alone) for regional anesthetic with either a spinal or epidural. After you’re numb, a catheter is placed in your bladder where it will stay for approximately 24 hours.
*Heads up! If you have an emergency c-section and don’t have an epidural in place, you may need general anesthesia.
- Have your support person join you in the OR once you and the team are ready to get the show on the road!
*Pro Tip: Bring some tunes to help you relax during the c-section! You can also request a gentle c-birth, where you have a clear drape to see your baby born, immediate skin to skin if you and baby are stable, and first latch with the support of a nurse while your team gets you ready for PACU.
Your baby is here! What happens next?
- Spend your first few hours as a family in PACU (the recovery room) where a nurse will monitor your vital signs, heart rhythm, bleeding, and pain.
*Heads up: To ensure you don't bleed too much from your uterus postpartum, your nurse will need to do something called a fundal check. A fundal check is when someone presses on top of your uterus, or fundus, to confirm it's firm and center. To get through this experience, take pain meds, use ice packs, and have your nurse count to 3 before they start.
- Bond with your baby while you recover, if you both are stable.
*Pro Tip: Get some skin-to-skin time with the help of your nurse or support person! You can get a nesting shirt to keep baby safe in your arms while the pain medication wears off.
- Be cleared by the anesthesiologist and transfer to the postpartum unit where you will stay for 48-72 hours.
Here’s how to do PACU Like a Pro:
- Have a support person with you during your PACU recovery. You will be drowsy and have health devices attached to your body, making it difficult to move or lift your baby! Here are all the annoying (but totally necessary) devices keeping you healthy and safe:
Blood pressure cuff on your arm.
Pulse oximetry probe on your finger.
ECG leads on your chest to monitor your heart rhythm.
Compression socks and sequential compression device (or leg pump machine!) on your legs.
Fluid and pain medication running through your IV.
A catheter in your bladder.
Pad and mesh panties.
*Heads Up: you will still have postpartum bleeding from your vagina.
- Give your family and friends a heads up that only 1-2 support people are allowed in PACU. If family members wish to see the baby right away, they will have to rotate one at a time or wait until you are moved to the postpartum unit.
- Stay hydrated! Bring your own coconut water, bone broth, or herbal tea.
- Prepare for a longer PACU recovery if you had an emergency c-section with general anesthesia.
Mom’s First 24 hours:
- Expect to swell, particularly in your hands, feet, and legs, from all the IV fluids. It goes away in a few days!