From c-section scars to recovery time, we quiz the experts on everything you need to know about caesareans.
However, you plan to give birth, it is worth understanding all the possible procedures and the terminology around c-sections. While emergency c-sections may seem like a worse case scenario, you are much more likely to feel in control if you’ve done a little research.
With around 1 in 4 women delivering via c-section, whether this is selected for medical reasons, or as a personal choice, it’s natural for expectant mothers to have some questions on the topic.
Baby Columnists Marina Fogle and Dr Chiara Hunt, and Helen Taylor, Independent Midwife with over 15 years experience and owner of private practise Midwife Care, share their c-section FAQs.
Why You Might Need a Caesarean Section?
Baby columnists Marina Fogle and Dr Chiara Hunt explain why a C-Section may be necessary.
All professionals agree that, for uncomplicated pregnancies, the safest way to give birth is vaginally. Regardless of what you might have heard, a caesarean is not the easy option. It should not be advocated without a good medical reason.
That said, sometimes the safest way to deliver is by c-section – and the only way in some circumstances. Up to 20% of women in London end up having an emergency c-section
It’s worth understanding the terminology. An elective c-section means the decision has been made before labour has started. Although the name implies you are making the choice, it is mostly for medical reasons; it does not mean you are ‘too posh to push’. An emergency c-section means the decision has been made once labour has started. Although medics will be keen to get on with it, this does not necessarily mean the drama of blue flashing lights. Often the experience is calm, and staff will always have time to explain the reasons.
There are lots of reasons your doctor might advise a c-section either before or during labour.
The most common reasons for elective c-section are:
- Breech position
- Multiple previous c-sections
- Placenta praevia
The most common reasons for emergency c-section are:
- Fetal distress
- Failure to progress
- Bleeding in labour
This list is by no means exhaustive. It is crucial to listen and understand why doctors are recommending a c-section.
Why a C-Section is not an Easy Option
Although for some women the birth itself seems easier, a c-section is not the easy option. Any major abdominal surgery carries relatively significant risks of complications. And, there is no doubt the first few weeks after the birth are harder and the overall recovery time is longer.
There are dangers with any surgery, for example, bleeding, infection and anaesthetic risks. Studies show that some childhood illnesses may be linked to caesarean births. This is something that you need to be aware of, especially if you are considering c-section without good medical reason.
For the majority of women, the decision to have a c-section is out of their hands. It is being made because the risk of natural birth in your individual case is thought to outweigh the risk of the c-section. Make sure you understand the reasons and are involved in the decision-making. Even in an emergency, the doctors should take time to explain the decision and make sure you are happy with it. You will never be forced to do anything you are unhappy with.
Even though it is a very common operation, it is a major surgery and lots of questions can arise for new mums. HelenTaylor, independent midwife tackles five of the most common questions women have before a C-section.
How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Caesarean?
Following your caesarean,you may be kept in hospital for 48 hours after birth. It is common to feel nauseated after your c-section. To help your recovery once your epidural wears off you will be encouraged to move gently. Although, it can take six to eight weeks before you can resume activities such as lifting older children and driving. Despite caring for a new-born baby, try and get as much rest as possible. Encourage optimal healing by eating healthily, hydrating regularly and avoid smoking.
What will My C-Section Scar Look Like?
A typical caesarean scar is a thin horizontal line of around 10-15cm just above your pubic hairline. This area is expected to feel numb or itchy for a few weeks so for optimum comfort and to avoid irritation wear high full brief underwear for six to eight weeks. After bathing it is important to allow the scar to dry by allowing air to circulate or gently patting dry. Be sure to have clean hands and towels to reduce the risk of inflammation.
Once your wound has healed there are treatments to improve the appearance of the scar. In a survey commissioned by KELO-COTE®, 82% of people were not aware that you can treat scars for up to 2 years after the initial wound. Silicone based treatments aid healing by forming an ultra-thin barrier over the affected area which softens and flattens appearance.
Helen Taylor has been working with KELO-COTE® (kelocote.co.uk) scar gel on a summer awareness campaign around scar management and body positivity for those with visible scars.
Is it Normal to Bleed?
Yes, all women bleed post birth no matter the delivery method. It is known as lochia with the first 48 hours being the heaviest. It is common for bleeding to last up to six weeks so is advisable to wear sanitary pads, not tampons, post birth. Speak to a consultant if you have concerns over blood loss.
Can I Take Painkillers Even if I’m Breastfeeding?
It is advisable to take painkillers following your c-section and these are safe to take when breastfeeding. Remember to take regular doses, it may be helpful to set reminders. To help you cope with looking after your new-born tit is advisable to keep up your mobility. After a week any pain should be less but contact a professional if you find they are not improving.
When can I Exercise Again?
At your six-week post-natal check ask your midwife or GP about reintroducing exercise into your routine. Every woman recovers at their own pace so it is best to check with a professional. After this you can start with low impact exercises like swimming, pilates and yoga.
For more information, discover My Expert Midwife’s complete guide to having a C-section and adapting to recovery at myexpertmidwife.com.
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