I had an emergency section when I had my son back in 2013. Although the “emergency” part was obviously very frightening and traumatising, the c-section itself was positive and the recovery was not even close to as bad as I imagined it.
I’ve noticed from reading countless blogs and parenting forums over the years there is a lot of worry, fear & stigma surrounding the idea of giving birth via c-section so I wanted to share my experience as honestly as possible to hopefully give a balanced view.
(Please note this is based only on my own experience and that others may well disagree or have a very different perspective. And of course, always take the advice of your healthcare providers over anything you might read on a blog!)
You can’t feel any pain during the operation
I felt absolutely no pain at all during the birth. There was some sensation of tugging and pulling which felt a little strange but it certainly didn’t hurt at all. They use a cold spray to check you can’t feel anything before they begin.
You can be up and about fairly quickly
Having the catheter in after the birth is one of the most frustrating things as you are essentially tied to the bed. My son was born at 1am and less than 24 hours later I begged them to take the catheter out so I could get up, move around and tend to my son. They said I had to prove I could get back and forth to the bathroom, which I did with no problems (TMI alert – even that first “number two” wasn’t anything like the horror I was expecting!). I believe that it was getting up fairly soon after birth that helped with the healing process.
Recovery wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated
The pain afterwards really wasn’t as bad as everyone kept telling me it would be. I was given regular paracetamol and diclofenic and I made sure I took all my pain killers on time, regardless of my actual pain level, as this is the best way of keeping any discomfort at bay. I continued to be vigilant about my meds once I was home too and don’t recall any time where I was in agony during recovery, the only twinges or aches I felt were when I moved to sitting or standing or when I laughed, coughed or sneezed etc.
Very gentle movement can be good
Obviously rest is important after a major operation and you have to be led by your doctor’s advice but I honestly believe that getting up and about within 24 hours really helped with my recovery. I was going for very short, gentle walks within a day or two of being home (I was in hospital 3 nights in total, including the night I had my son) and there was only one instance where I pushed myself too far which was actually a shopping trip a took a few weeks after birth. After walking around for a couple of hours my pain level increased and I took myself straight home. The best advice is to listen to your body and be led by it but don’t be afraid to try gentle movements.
Aftercare went smoothly
I had staples instead of stitches and I was absolutely dreading having them out but, again, this wasn’t as bad as I expected. The midwife came round a few days after I got home and simply snipped them out; if you are offered a choice I would take staples over stitches. The most painful part was actually having the weird rubber sticky tape dressing removed, which vaguely reminded me of a bikini wax!
Scarring can be minimal
There seems to be a big difference in scars depending on your surgeon and your situation. I was fortunate that my scar is very neat and four years later I can hardly see it! I do experience some numbness around it, and oddly some itching around my period time, but otherwise no issues. I think it’s important to look at a c-section scar and feel positive rather than being too worried about no longer looking perfect down there (I think the fact that I’m overweight and already covered in stretch marks helped me to shrug some of the worries about scarring off!)
The down side
The big c-section negative for me is I that, although physically my recovery was great, I did struggle a little psychologically which I believe is largely down to the trauma of the emergency rather than the section itself. Because my son was struggling and the section had to be performed fairly urgently they gave me too much anesthetic and I was unable to at all for several hours, including my arms. This interrupted my bonding with my son because I was unable to hold him or feel him feed for a long while. Ultimately, I think this contributed a small amount to my experiencing postnatal depression & anxiety.
But there is so much you can do to try to prevent this, in particular if you’re having an elective section. If I’m ever to have a second child I will definitely opt for a c-section to avoid the chance of another emergency one and I would insist on the following:
- Lowering of the dividing sheet at the moment of birth so I can see the baby’s arrival. Google “natural c-section” for more info on this.
- Skin to skin as immediately as the baby’s condition will allow and I don’t believe my having no use of my arms at that time should have prevented this. My husband was right there and willing to hold the baby on me had they allowed him.
- Requesting my husband and baby stay in the theatre with me while I’m being stitched up. I had only one brief glance as my son before he and my husband were ushered out of the room while they worked on me. My son wasn’t having any tests etc during this time so there is absolutely no reason we should have been apart. Insist this doesn’t happen if you can.
Despite the mental health issues I suffered I wouldn’t be at all fearful of having another c-section. From talking to many mums I know who experienced natural deliveries I would actually say that in many cases my physical recovery was more straightforward. Just make sure you advocate for yourself in terms of initial bonding.
I hope this is helpful to anyone worried about having to have an emergency section or who needs to have an elective section for whatever reason. I’d love to hear your section stories so feel free to comment below.