Planning a C-section can be a really exciting time for many women — you're getting ready to welcome new life into the world! But, it can also be daunting and scary when you don't know what to expect.
To help put some of your fears to rest, we've created a guide to help you prepare mentally and physically for your upcoming C-section so you can welcome your baby into world with ease and begin your postpartum recovery.
We're diving into what you should be eating in the weeks leading up to your C-section, exercises to keep you moving and what to expect before and after your caesarean section.
Ready to dive in? Let's go!
How to prepare for a C-section
If you've got a caesarean birth planned in the coming weeks or months, it's time to get yourself ready for what's to come.
Let's run through some ways you can mentally and physically prepare yourself to head to the operating room and have an elective caesarean birth.
Mentally preparing for a C-section
C-sections involve major surgery which can cause stress and anxiety for many women so it's important to mentally prepare yourself to have a more relaxing birthing experience.
Here are some ways you can mentally prepare yourself for a C-section in the weeks and months leading up to your due date.
- Ask questions: Not knowing what to expect from a caesarean birth can make your mind wander and cause a lot of stress and anxiety. If you're having worries or fears surrounding your upcoming C-section, speak up about it and ask your doctor questions. Your doctor can put a lot of concerns to rest and walk you through how the day should go.
- Relaxation techniques and breathing exercises: Preparing for your caesarean birth isn't all physical — it's mental too. The more relaxed you are during your birth, the more of a positive experience it can be. Try learning and implementing some breathing and relaxation techniques that work for you in the coming months and weeks before your planned caesarean birth.
- Listen to other women's positive C-section stories: Women who've had more than one baby often are more relaxed in future pregnancies because they know what to expect. If you've never had a C-section before, it can be helpful to listen to other people's positive experiences to calm your nerves and help you get prepared for the day.
- Hire a doula: Doulas aren't only used for vaginal births. A doula can act as a support person which can be helpful for planned caesarean births. Doulas can provide women with comfort during the C-section, help them stay calm and even distract them if they're freaking out during the surgical procedure.
Some women find comfort in planning their hospital bag in the first few weeks leading up to their caesarean section so they aren't stressed at the last minute. Most hospitals give you a list of things to bring including clothing for you and your baby.
Kin's C-Section Recovery Kit comes with postpartum briefs that give you maximum comfort and sit above and out of the way of your incision wound, a belly band to target compression around your incision site and abdominal muscles, a nourishing cream to reduce to appearance of C-section scars, a peri-bottle to help you clean without painful pressure and postnatal vitamins to help you recover and restore.
Physically preparing for a C-section
Although you probably can't run a marathon (if that's your thing) before a C-section, there are plenty of ways to take care of your body and stay active before that will also help with the recovery process.
- Light exercise: In the weeks and days leading up to your C-section, try to get outdoors and soak up some sunshine while listening to calming music or your favourite podcast. This doesn't just have positive effects on your physical health but your mental health as well.
- Pelvic floor exercises: Pelvic floor muscles aren't just affected in a vaginal birth, but in a caesarean birth too. To support your womb, bowels and bladder, pelvic floor exercises can help manage bladder leaking post-C-section .
- Eat easily digestible foods: Before your planned caesarean birth, you should focus on eating foods that are rich in fibre and vitamins, and are easy to digest. This can include soups, oats, yoghurt, broth, green vegetables and fruits. These foods will help with your bowel movements, calm indigestion and reduce bloating.
What should I do the night before my C-section?
The most important thing to remember is to follow your doctor's instructions on what to do leading up to your C-section as these will be personalised to you. But, there are a few general things you can and can't do the night before your caesarean birth so let's run through them.
Eating before your elective caesarean section
Generally, you can eat and drink as normal until 6 hours before your caesarean birth, which is when you'll need to fast, meaning no eating and drinking (including water) .
Sometimes you're allowed to drink clear fluids for up to 2 hours before you head to the operating theatre. This can vary so make sure you ask your doctor or midwife what they suggest.
If you're having an emergency caesarean, the doctor will check with you to ask when was the last time you were eating and drinking so they know how to proceed with the surgery.
Showering before your elective caesarean section
Sometimes doctors may ask you to shower with special soap the night before or the morning of your C-section. Again, follow the instructions from your doctor or midwife.
It's generally advised that you don't put on any lotions or fragrances on your body after showering. It's also recommended that you don't shave your pubic hair to avoid potential infections to the wound.
Check in with your doctor about the medications you're taking as they may need to review them. In some cases, you can be asked to stop taking certain medications a few days or weeks before your elective caesarean.
Exercises to prepare for a C-section
There are various exercises you can do leading up to your caesarean section to prepare your mind and body and aid in the recovery process. There are plenty of YouTube videos you can watch to guide you through various pregnancy-safe exercises or you can take a pregnancy yoga or Pilates class to keep your body moving.
Let's dive into some great exercises to prepare for a C-section.
- Belly breathing: This is a great relaxation exercise and works your core muscles in the process.
- Pelvic floor exercises: This can help to manage and prevent bladder leakage after your C-section.
- Yoga and stretching: Pregnancy yoga is safe to do while pregnant and can be great to stretch the body and calm the mind.
- Walking: Going out for regular low-intensity walks can be great to keep your body moving and get some sunshine.
- Abdominal exercises: Abdominal muscles help to support your spine and it's common for women to experience diastasis recti abdominis (separating of the abdominal muscles) . Light abdominal exercises can help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and better support your spine during pregnancy.
How long does a C-section take?
For most women, a C-section can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. However, in some cases, a caesarean section can take hours depending on any pregnancy complications or emergencies. In other cases, a caesarean birth can be very short and take as little as 15 minutes.
What happens just before a caesarean?
If you've never had a C-section before, here's what happens just before you enter the operating theatre.
Firstly, a C-section can only be performed with written permission where your doctor will explain the risks, benefits and any possible complications that can arise so you can make an informed decision. Then, you'll be asked to sign a consent form to give them the green light.
You'll be asked to stop eating and drinking before your caesarean section and you'll be given compression stockings to wear during surgery to prevent blood clots.
Before you enter the operating theatre, your doctor or midwife will ask you about any health problems or medical conditions you have including allergies, bleeding and any medications you are taking.
Once you're in the operating theatre, you'll be prepared for anaesthetic and in most elective caesarean births, many women either have an epidural anaesthetic  or a spinal anaesthetic (a.k.a spinal block) . Both are forms of regional anesthesia where you are awake during the caesarean birth.
Next, a doctor will place an intravenous line (IV) into your arm to give you fluids and medications and place a catheter (a plastic tube) into your bladder so it remains empty during the procedure.
What happens after a C-section?
Following a C-section, a hospital stay of 2-3 days is required where you will be cared for in the recovery room until you're ready to head to the maternity ward.
If you've had a general anaesthetic, nurses and midwives will monitor you in the recovery room until you're awake where you will be able to see your baby and have skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
Following your C-section, it's normal to feel post-surgical pain, considering it's a major surgery so be sure to speak up and tell your doctor you need pain medications. Nurses and midwives will also regularly check your blood pressure to make sure you don't have high blood pressure, and assess your wound and how much vaginal bleeding you have.
Generally, you're encouraged to walk and move around as soon as possible and wear compression stockings to reduce the risk of blood clots.
Preparing for a caesarean section is a bit different to a vaginal birth which can be daunting for women who've never experienced this process before. Although you should talk to your doctor to prepare for your caesarean section, there are a few things you can expect from the process and with the help of this guide, you can mentally and physically prepare for your due date.