This is a post I feel I had better write before all the info is gone from my head, lost in the blur or sleepless nights and school runs and preparing food! I have had four sections now, one emergency and the subsequent three were elective, all in Cork University Maternity Hospital so obviously the info I give here may differ from hospital to hospital. The second which is the pivotal one really, once you have two sections for the most part you have set your future birthing options in stone you can’t go vaginal after that (in the vast majority of cases). The main reason I had an elective section second time round was based on the consultants opinion. At 36 weeks the baby was measuring around 8lbs (in fact she was closer to 9lbs at that stage!) and given the previous history of my first birthing experience it was decided to go for an elective section at 39 weeks (standard elective sections are always done one week before due date).
So in general my c-sections have been decided at the 36 week appointment for the first elective section and the next two I was given the date at my 32 week appointment. Then you go about your business as normal until the week of the section really. On my third and fourth section I was offered tubal ligation at the same time, I took them up on the offer fourth time round and I’ll talk about that further down. The week of the section you are brought into the hospital, usually two days or the day before, to get a full set of bloods taken and to sign the consent form (which is sometimes done at the 36 week check but mine has always been redone the day before too). In Cork there are two time slots for coming into the hospital – 7am or 10am, depending on where you are on ‘the list’! You don’t find out what time you’re due into the hospital until, at the earliest, the afternoon before your section. Then depending on what time your section is loosely scheduled for you will be told to fast from either the night before or from 6am that morning. After that you are allowed to have sips of water and ‘clear fluid’ such as juice or tea and coffee without milk. The night before and the morning of you have to shower using a special antibacterial soap that you either be given by the hospital of you have to buy yourself in the pharmacy. You can’t wear nail polish, fake tan, makeup, hair clips or jewellery going into theatre.
When you get into hospital be prepared to wait! There are a lot of unknowns about when your section will actually happen because obviously emergency sections take preference over yours. I have been up on the table about to get my spinal injection and have had to go back to a waiting room because of a section so just be prepared, bring books, the paper, netflix etc etc to pass the time.
Eventually you will be called down to wait outside the theatre in your long compression socks (which you leave on until you leave hospital) and a backless gown (and you’re in the nip underneath!). Your partner brings the babies babygro, nappy, vest and hat and that’s all you’re allowed to bring down with you (just make sure your partner has his phone if you want to get some pictures in recovery and let people know the news!). You are brought into theatre alone first and the anaesthetist will go through everything with you. You’ll get a local anaesthetic first and then the spinal which just feels like someone pressing into your spine pretty hard. Then you’re put on your back and you’ll feel a warm sensation come over your legs and you won’t be able to move them. They’ll check what you can feel before they start, you can feel a certain amount of tugging etc but you shouldn’t feel any pain. You also have a catheter put in at this point.
Once the section starts your partner will come in and there is a screen pulled up in front of you at chest height so you can’t see anything. We have always asked to see the sex of the baby for ourselves so they have generally pulled the screen down when the baby is coming out and my husband has a look (I couldn’t look, too gross seeing it happen to myself!). Once the section is done there’s a bit of work afterwards in terms of getting sewn back up so I asked to do skin to skin this time round, it’s a bit awkward because the baby is basically lying on your neck but it’s nice. Your partner can do it either so get them to wear a shirt for easy access! They midwives will take the baby after a little while as the theatre is generally a little chilly and they’ll weigh and dress the baby and tag them for security purposes.
I got my tubes done this time round so it involved a bit of extra time on the table after the section – they took out my tubes altogether to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
After the section is finished you’re moved onto your hospital bed and brought to recovery. They do a million checks here, get you started with feeding the baby, you get some injections (for what I can’t remember!) and I think you’re allowed out and back to your room as soon as you can start to wiggle your toes. They also do some blood tests (well they did on my because I am Rheusus Negative.
Back in your room you’re not allowed food for a while after the surgery (tends to differ from 6-12 hours). You won’t be able to walk until usually the next day when they take out the catheter but take your time getting up and about because it can be daunting, make sure your partner is there with you in case you get dizzy. The midwives ask you to record what you pass in urine twice before they will take the needle yoke (can’t remember the technical term!) out of your hand. They will also keep asking you about your first bowel movement which again can be daunting sometimes because of the surgery to your tummy. You also have to record feeding and nappies if you are breastfeeding, I’m not sure if you have to do it if you’re bottle feeding.
On the first night after your section they will take the baby to the nursery for the night (usually from 11pm to 5/6am) and they will being the baby back to feed.
I found recovery after the section and the tubal ligation a lot harder than just the section recovery for that first night. I had a lot of discomfort in my shoulder and upper part of my tummy which is apparently trapped wind so once you start to ‘release’ that you’ll be fine! Over the course of your stay (usually 4 nights) you will have so many checks I can’t even begin to remember them all. You will get Inehep (don’t know how to spell that exactly!) every day which is an anticlogging injection. They check blood pressure and temperature of you and the baby at very regular intervals. You get pain medication, as much as you need, so don’t be afraid to take it! The surgeon will call in to fill you in on the surgery and check out how you. A paediatric doctor will check the baby for reflexes, clicky hips among many other things. Baby’s hearing will be checked.
Bring lots of snacks to the hospital, in CUMH dinner is at 4.30pm, you get tea around 8pm and BE SURE to ask for a sandwich then, lots of them don’t offer them but they are there and they are available. But it’s a long night if you’re up, sorry now not if, when you are awake, day is night and night is day in there, the bins are changed at all hours so don’t expect your stay to be relaxing! Breakfast is around 8am.
Make sure to bring photographic ID to CUMH so that you can get your baby registered while you are there, the registrar will call round and you make an appointment with them. Both parents must attend if you are not married but if you were married in Ireland it’s on their system so only one parent need attend.
Depending on the type of stiches or staples you have to wait a day or two to take off the bandage which you do yourself in the shower, again, I would advise leaving the door unlocked while you do that because it made me feel really weak the first time I did it.
On the day you check out again sooo many checks to be done the main one really being baby’s weight. If the baby has lost more than 10% of their birth weight you may have to stay in another night or they will check the babies (i think) blood oxygen levels and they’ll go from there. The midwife goes through lots of things in general how to look after yourself and the baby once you go home. You’ll get a prescription for pain medication when you leave, usually a weeks worth.
I think that’s it then, I think that’s the nitty gritty of what happens when you’re having a section. Some of the above applies to emergency sections too.