Are you having a c-section soon? What are the cons of having a c-section? Is a c-section more painful? I spill it all! Here are 13 things no one tells you about having a C-Section. Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
Many of you know that I had a repeat C-Section with baby number two just a few weeks ago. I had an emergency cesarean the first time around about four years ago. I considered having a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) this time around, but I’m glad that I chose to roll with the C-Section. My doctor told me that after my last birth (having never gone into labor after being induced at 7 days past my due date, I simply wasn’t a good candidate for the VBAC, but it was ultimately my decision.
Is a cesarean section a major operation? Yes, but I opted for the repeat out of instinct and for fear of another traumatizing natural birth attempt, and I’m so glad I did – my son’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice by the time he was removed at 39 weeks. That means that had I attempted to VBAC, things could have gotten pretty scary really fast.
Having a C-Section Isn’t The End of the World
Anyway, having a c-section is tough stuff but there are a lot of situations in which they are necessary. I don’t want anyone to feel like it’s something to feel guilty or inadequate about. That’s how I felt the first time but now I feel empowered and grateful for my experiences and want to share a few things that might help future C-Section mamas. I’m writing this to help you know what to expect if you have a cesarean delivery. You can read my tips for a faster recovery in this post.
You can do internet research all day long. You can think you know everything you need to know about c-sections, like me. I hung around a lot of forums and did a lot of research about giving birth when I was pregnant the first time. It made me scared to have a C-Section and I felt a lot of pressure not to. But hear this mama, it’s not the end of the world and your baby is totally worth it. If your birth story becomes a C-Section story, you are still a mom and you are not to feel lesser than because of it.
Related Reading: 7 Things to Have on Hand for Easier C-Section Recovery
Benefits of Having a C-Section
What are the cons of having a c section? There are obviously some, but that’s not what I want to focus on. After having two of these surgeries, I can look back and say that there are actually some perks to having a c-section. Knowing these might be helpful in c-section recovery and preparing for a planned c section. These include:
- No risk of tearing your lady bits.
- No risk of an episiotomy (cutting of the lady bits).
- Knowing your baby’s birthday (assuming it’s planned) – this is super helpful if you have other kids to arrange childcare for.
- Your baby is out super fast! I was induced and trying to go into labor for several days before my daughter’s birth. By that time I was physically done for and everything was a blur.
- You can opt to get your tubes tied in a 2-in-1 style surgery when you’re done having kids.
(I can’t speak as to what natural or vaginal births are like since I don’t have those experiences, but since I had c-sections I am just choosing to look at the bright side!)
There are, however, some things that I don’t really think anyone gave me a “heads up” about. (Obviously, there’s the c-section scar.) Honestly maybe I didn’t ask enough questions, but the first time I had a c-section, I was delirious after days of being poked and drugged. I just went with it.
The second time, since everything was planned, I was significantly more present and coherent for it all. Now I am a few weeks postpartum and have observed some things that might help other moms. They might not be things that all c-section moms experience, but if they can help someone else feel a little more normal or prepared, my job here is done. 🙂
13 Things No One Tells You About Having a C-Section
1. You Might Itch or Shake Uncontrollably During or Immediately After Surgery
The anesthesia given to you to numb your body might make you itch like crazy, make you feel so cold you shake, or both. Within minutes of having my meds administered through the spine, my eyebrows and chin started itching uncontrollably. I was strapped down, however, so moving my arms to itch was not an option. (Thank goodness hubs was there to rub my face haha.) For several hours after the operation, I fought the itch. I itched myself until my back and face were raw…ugh! It does wear off after a few hours, but to help you through this, try a cold washcloth to soothe the areas affected instead of itching like me. You can also request medicine to ease it but if you’re like me, less medicine seems better.
Related Reading: How to Set Realistic Fitness Goals After Having a Baby
2. You Might Want to Puke for Several Hours Post Op
I felt like vomiting beginning from the moment I was laying on the table ready to be opened up. The urge was so strong that I did request some Zofran (anti-nausea) and it worked immediately. However, I felt like vomiting every hour or so for about 4 hours post-operation, but never did. I was allowed only a few ice chips during this time. But boy did that first pudding after fasting for nearly 24 hours taste good!
3. The Tugging You Feel During Surgery Might Actually Be the Weirdest Feeling Ever
You can’t feel pain – but you can still feel. Your care team will make good and sure that you’re not feeling pain and that you’re numb in all of the right places. But you will feel what seems like a tug here and there as the surgeon works around muscles and the rest of your innards. This will be especially true during your sew-up, as stitches are usually done beneath the skin. Nothing to worry about, but be prepared for a weird sensation.
4. Your Milk Might Take Longer to Come In
Long ago, during my first pregnancy, I read that having a C-Section could affect your ability to breastfeed.The theory is that some sort of hormonal change happens while babies travel through the birth canal and your placenta is removed vaginally. I believe that this is true because I struggled immensely my first time. I didn’t ever feel like my milk really came in and I had to supplement with formula. Knowing that this time, I pulled out all of the stops (like investing in Mother’s Milk Tea and lactation cookies). I was more patient with my baby and my body and now I am happily feeding my baby 100% breast milk, even if it’s sometimes pumped milk. I feel so accomplished!
5. You Probably Won’t Be the First Person to Hold Your Baby
This might feel like a bummer, but it doesn’t have to be. After the doctor and/or nurse quickly evaluate your baby, you’ll probably be given the option to hold your baby while on the table. I, however, felt unable to safely hold my son and daughter while on so many medications. I opted to let my husband hold the baby and show him to me until we were back in our room and the medications were wearing off. You may not have the same instinct and might be perfectly capable of holding your baby. But if you don’t feel safe doing it, make sure you have someone you trust with you in the operating room.
Related Reading: My Postpartum Weight Loss Journey: Part 1
6. You Will Bleed Just Like You Might After a Natural Birth
Your placenta must leave your body one way or another, and this is what causes the majority of bleeding postpartum. When the placenta is removed from the uterine wall, it causes bleeding. Plus, during pregnancy, your body manufactures a lot more blood than usual. You no longer need it. Be prepared to need those trusty menstrual pads for up to several weeks postpartum.
7. Coughing, Laughing, or Sneezing Might Feel Scary
I remember trying not to cough right after my c-sections. I felt like if I did, I might rip open my inner stitches and my guts just might fall out. The doctors and nurses assured that this wouldn’t happen, but I still tried to stifle my cough. Now, as I’m writing this, I am almost two weeks postpartum and I still feel a little funky about coughing, laughing, and sneezing. But I know I’ll be okay – and so will you.
8. Your Incision Will Get Itchy and Annoying
At least a week after your surgery, you’ll start to feel your incision feeling a little itchy. It’s partially due to the regrowth of the hair in the area, but partially just part of the skin’s healing process. You should definitely NOT itch your incision and should still keep it clean, dry and protected for several weeks. Your c-section scar will mostly recede, however.
9. You Can’t Comfortably Wear Regular Undies or Pants for a Long Time
Even if they fit, you probably won’t want to wear your regular jeans or panties for quite awhile. That’s because many of them might hit right where your incision is. (Don’t forget about where your pants might hit/rub while sitting.) I just tried on my regular jeans yesterday and they fit, but I have to pull them way higher than normal to wear them without rubbing on my incision. As for my underwear, they had to be rolled down super low to avoid my incision. If your hospital offers you extra maternity underwear, TAKE THEM! You’ll want to wear those at least a week. If not, you might consider buying your own high-wasted or post-surgery underwear.
10. You Will Have a Nice Fanny-Pack Belly for Awhile
Even if you are lucky enough to get down to your pre-pregnancy weight quickly after birth, you’re going to have a saggy belly. This is normal after any pregnancy, but c-section bellies are special. Right above your incision, you’ll having sagging skin like dough hanging over a mixing bowl. (Bad analogy?) That sagging skin might hang down below your incision and cause some pressure or pain. It will go away slowly, but you may consider self c-section massage later down the road once you’re totally healed. If you’re worried about it, wear those high-wasted panties or consider a postpartum girdle like the one I have.
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11. They Will Give You Way Too Many Hardcore Drugs For the Pain
I was given three huge bottles of pain killer, plus an iron supplement. One of those bottles contained Oxycodone, which is a controlled substance for a reason. I’m a “no-medicine-unless-absolutely-necessary” kind of person, so I weaned myself from it within a week. That left me with a huge bottle remaining, and now I’ll have to drop it off at a collection spot. I just didn’t feel like I need such huge doses of Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Oxy. You might though! But don’t feel like you have to finish everything in your bottles…oxy is addictive and you don’t want to be reliant on it.
12. The Constipation You Experience from Said Drugs Might Cause Worse Pain
Part of the reason I weaned myself quickly was because of the terrible stomach pressure I felt. TMI…not pooping for almost a week can be painful. And having a bowel movement after a c-section can feel scary. My best advice is to invest in a doctor-approved stool-softener (they’ll probably advise you to anyway) and take it religiously. If you can’t get things moving, it might be time to wean yourself from the oxy or skip your iron for a day. Just listen to your body.
13. You Might Actually Be Grateful For Your Experience
Having a c-section not only saved both of my kids, it has given me a lot of important experience. When it comes to my personal training, I feel like having had kids (and via c-section, no less) helps me relate to other moms. I want the women I’m training to feel understood and I want to be armed with knowledge and hands-on experience, and that’s what I have now. Looking back, all-in-all, having a c-section is something I’m grateful for!
I hope that if you’re a c-section mama to be (or just a prepared-for-anything type) this helps you. I know that no two pregnancies are the same, and surely no two c-sections are the same. But like I said, I just want other moms to know what they might experience and that they are totally not alone. If you have a c-section and experience any of these things, it’s pretty normal and you’ll make it through just fine.
Have you had a c-section?
What are things you were surprised to learn or experience? Let me know by dropping a comment below!
Otherwise, check out these other posts related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery: