Time to Talk: the procedure of a caesarean

It’s the second part of our caesarean special, in which sisters and The Bump Class founders Marina Fogle and Dr Chiara Hunt discuss in detail what to expect during the procedure.

Having a caesarean is a unique experience. In no other situation does open surgery have such an air of excitement. The moment your baby is born and delivered into your arms is an instant of unparalleled joy. It is crucial you are relaxed and enjoy the day.

Many women, even those having emergency caesareans, are surprised how relaxed the operating theatre seems. The radio will be on or you can choose music, and the anaesthetist will probably chat to you. Unless there is an unusual situation, you will be awake. Before surgery, you will have an intravenous line inserted and the epidural will be administered. A catheter will also be inserted and the area around the incision shaved. You will be on a firm bed so narrow you may feel like you are going to fall off; don’t worry, you’re strapped on.

There are lot of medics in the room. This is something we warn The Bump Class about so they don’t think it means there is a problem. In an elective c-section there may be up to 10 staff, and it’s standard to have a paediatric team in an emergency c-section, bringing the number up to around 12. They all have a role and a lot of those roles are precautionary.

A screen will be put between your head and lower body so you can’t see any of the operation. There are lots of machines around – they are standard, so try to ignore them. You are usually allowed one person with you in the theatre. They will be asked to wear surgical scrubs and sit on a stool next to your head.

The obstetrician will make a small incision just above your pubic bone, trying to keep this as small as possible. Your muscles will be pulled aside – not cut as so many women believe. Another incision will be made in your uterus. Even if your waters have broken, there will still be amniotic fluid around your baby and a suction machine, similar to the dentist’s, will be used. When you hear this distinctive noise, you know your baby is about to be born. You will feel a tugging or pulling sensation, as well as a lot of pressure on your tummy. This is a surgeon pushing your baby from behind to help him out. The team will often lower the screen so you can see the baby just after he is born.

Many women are surprised at how quick the procedure is; your baby is usually out in 15 minutes. The rest of the operation can take another 40 minutes but this will pass quickly as you will be looking at your baby for the first time!

Your baby will be checked by the midwife or paediatrician before being given to you or your partner to hold. If you are keen to have skin-to-skin contact, ask to leave one arm out of the surgical gown you’ll be wearing so you can lie your baby on your chest. Once the operation is finished, you will transfer to the recovery room where you will be monitored for about an hour. You will be on a bed, so this is a good time for skin-to-skin contact and that all-important first feed.

Once you are stable, you will be moved to a postnatal room. The epidural will wear off over the next few hours and you will slowly be allowed to eat and drink. Most women stay in hospital for two or three nights. The midwives will encourage you to get up and about as soon as possible. This will feel very sore but gets better quickly, and getting mobile will speed up your recovery.

The Bump Class | thebumpclass.com | Photography: Helene Sandberg | helenesandberg.com