Women have C-sections for all kinds of reasons, be it emergencies or electives to help ensure mother and baby are safe and of course by choice. We are lucky that in the UK we now have the choice to request a section if we so wish. It is our right.
I underwent a traumatic crash (emergency) section with my first child Oliver (now 5) after developing the pregnancy liver condition ICP. When you suffer with ICP, less bile flows into your intestines meaning bile acids can build up in your body and there is a risk to your baby.
My bile acid levels were monitored regularly once the main symptom of itching began at 31 weeks but at 3 weeks and 1 day before my son’s due date, they became dangerously high and an induction was required.
What followed was a distressed baby and an emergency section (of course not all OC sufferers’ births lead to C-sections but it is often recommended that babies are born before 38 weeks so many mothers are induced and with induction comes a greater chance of c-sections.
Oliver was born safely and within 20 minutes, with a good birth weight but it took me many months to recover physically and emotionally from such a traumatic birth.
I had carpal tunnel in my right hand which was not ideal with a new baby to look after and my husband and I seemed to be in shock for quite a while.
10 sessions with an osteopath later, my hand improved and making a film about my liver condition ICP along with crucial support when we moved closer to home, meant I was ready to get pregnant again when Oliver turned 2.
My second pregnancy was much easier than my first. This time, despite the high odds of having ICP in a subsequent pregnancy (60-90%), I didn’t get it and I had great care under a consultant, who had advised limiting trauma by undergoing an elective.
Not only in my case did he feel it was safer (and it turned out to be as the cord was wrapped around my son’s neck) but he wanted to minimise trauma.
Yes many women have successful VBAC’s but he didn’t want the possibility of an emergency again. It was absolutely the right decision. I had a beautiful, calm birth, everything I’d hoped for with my first.
My consultant even operated which is rare unless you have major complications or multiple births but he said he wanted to. Thank you the NHS.
The surgical team were mostly wearing Sponge Bob hats, Michael Jackson’s ‘You are Not Alone’ (how ironic) played in the theatre and it was simply perfect. There was no rush. No panic. The anaesthetist held one hand, my husband the other.
The minute Alexander was handed to me, I fell in love. I left theatre feeling incredible. Almost as if I hadn’t even had a baby. (Drugs are good). What I did feel was STRONG. In control. Content. Everything about the experience was different to my emergency.
I finally felt like I’d got the birth I deserved. I’ve included a few tips below-things that helped me prepare for the section with the hope it helps women out there. I’m not a Dr and can only write from my own experience so please ask yours for more information and simply use this as a guide.
1. Electives can still be worrying, especially if you’ve previously had an emergency and don’t know what to expect.
The night before, I made sure I had a healthy, filling meal (I was told to go nil by mouth from midnight the night before) so decided wholemeal spaghetti (slow releasing) with lots of lean mince bolognese
(protein) and seasonal vegetables followed by fruit and yoghurt (eaten at about 11pm) would keep me going until the surgery the next day… and it did.
2. Keep yourself distracted and happy the night before. I watched my favourite programmes from Dallas which was on at the time to comedy chat shows to keep me entertained. In bed, I read sections from lots of comedy books from Little Britain sketches to the Royle Family scripts. Keep things light.
I also kept calm with a large cup of chamomile tea. I slept through and my husband actually had to wake me up the next day.
3. Once I arrived at hospital, I had a positive mental attitude. Today I was going to meet my baby. I was asked to come in the week before for a C section and was sent home to return at 39 weeks (there had been an error when I was booked in) so this time I was having my baby and I was READY!
4. Just think once you’re prepped, it could be 20 mins, 40 max (probably) in theatre and you’ll have your beautiful baby in your arms. That’s no time at all. Keep that thought at the front of your mind.
4. You can usually communicate in theatre. The team are there to ensure you and your baby are safe but they want to make you feel comfortable too. If I felt pressure anywhere I simply informed the anaesthetist who modified the drugs I was being given. Talking to him, and my husband was reassuring throughout and normalised the experience.
5. Most Dr’s ask what music you would like in theatre or you can bring your own. This keeps the op upbeat so write your playlist before your C-section date!
6. Post section, it will take time to recover. Mentally I felt brilliant, totally myself literally from the second I was wheeled out of theatre but physically even walking was a struggle at first. I’m not great with morphine and codeine so I was only on paracetamol for pain relief but it was bearable.
Day 3 felt like the first major turnaround in terms of pain. And then 3 weeks, at which point I was driving again (and even gave a guest lecture at a University). Recovery felt very different to an emergency and despite the fact the pain was a greater, because I felt so calm and happy, it made all the difference.
7. Take help when it is offered. Rest when you can. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Ask your midwife for support when she visits and your GP if you want advice about you or your baby, or you have any concerns. That’s what they are there for. Eat well so you feel nourished and full. You need your energy.
8. Don’t be hard on yourself (still working on this everyday). Your tummy will take time to resemble what it was pre-baby and it might never look the same. That’s OK. You created life. Your womb did good. Give yourself a standing ovation (once you can, post-op). An incision has been made through 5 layers of skin, tissue and muscle so your body will take much longer to heal than most non C-section mums, try and remember that.
Scars tend to be small and very low down so if you want to rock a bikini in the future, you can. You need time and your Dr’s approval to exercise. I was told to start slowly with power walks after 7 weeks and jogging when my child was 4 months.
Everyone is different but take your time. You need to heal.
9. Never ever feel you have failed if you needed or chose a C-section. You have done what was right for you and all that matters is a safe mother and baby. Always.
10. When you’re ready and can, have a day out to treat yourself celebrating your birth experience. You are amazing.