C-sections: A crash course


No matter how much you prepare for labor and delivery, there’s always a chance things won’t go exactly as planned. While you may have your sights set on a vaginal delivery, there are countless reasons why your health care provider may call for a cesarean – or as it’s more commonly called, a C-section. Maybe labor has stalled and your contractions have petered out, or perhaps your little one is malpositioned and won’t fit through the pelvis. Whatever the case may be, it’s good to be prepared for the possibility of ending up on the operating table. Here’s what you can expect:

Surgery prep

  • You’ll be loaded into a wheelchair and delivered to the operating room. Most hospitals will allow your spouse or labor partner to join you.
  • Be advised: Phones, cameras and any other recording devices may not be allowed in the OR.
  • Your health care team will transfer you to the operating table where you’ll receive either a spinal block or epidural to block the pain. If you’ve been in labor up to this point, you’ll experience your last contraction here (hallelujah!). From here on out, you’ll be numb from just below your breasts and down. You will be awake for the surgery, but feeling relaxed.
  • Depending on the hospital, your team may gently restrain your arms for the surgery.
  • You’ll receive a catheter in your bladder.
  • The doctor will hook you up to an IV.
  • A curtain will be hung above your belly, blocking the surgery from your view.

Read more: 3 reasons not to stress about a C-section

The action

  • Rest assured, you won’t feel any pain during the surgery. What you will feel is a bit of pressure and some slight tugging. You may hear some surgical sounds and smell some strange odors.
  • The doctor will make a horizontal incision in your belly, at your bikini line.
  • Next, he or she will make a similar cut into the uterus, opening the amniotic sac and removing the baby.
  • Your medical team will clear the baby’s eyes and nose of any fluids, cut the umbilical cord and remove the placenta.

Post surgery

  • If the baby is healthy, the nurses will clean him or her up and, depending on the hospital, may allow the baby to rest on your chest to breastfeed for the first time. Meanwhile, the doctor will stitch up your incisions.
  • You will be wheeled to the recovery room while your partner and baby head to the nursery for vaccinations and a first bath. In family-friendly hospitals, baby and your partner will join you in recovery.
  • It will take 1-2 hours before you regain feeling in the lower part of your body.
  • A typical hospital stay for a c-section is three to five days.

Read more: Diary of a C-section: What really happens during surgery 


  • You’ll be sent home with prescription medications to help monitor the pain. If breastfeeding, your health care team will provide drugs that are safe for nursing mothers and their babies.
  • Following a c-section, your doctor will advise you to take it easy. No driving, stairs, sex or heavy lifting for at least six weeks.
  • Your doctor will monitor you for signs of infection, such as fever or irritation around your incision.

Read more: How to handle that C-section scar

Most women never expect to find themselves facing a C-section. But while you prepare for your baby’s arrival, it’s a good idea to learn about all your birthing options. When it comes to labor and delivery, what’s your ideal situation? What fears are you facing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. My greatest fear is,how can i deliver my baby without undergoing a c-section, being a first time mum; i have realised most first time moms undergo c-section in order to deliver their baby. am worried about the defects of C-section

  2. Don’t go in feeling like you have to have a c-section unless it’s life saving. In my opinion for both my first and second child (VBAC), I now realize how niaeve I was. I had a c-section for my first child because “she was to big for her age”, and because of her rate of growth was faster than her age, my dr. thought there was some risk. My second I was initially induced with a foley bulb/ pictocin/ manual water break. My child, in my opinion, was not ready. I did have an epidural and obviously had contractions but never had the urge to push. Because I didn’t know any better, I allowed this. Yes some things were told to me, but not to MY FULL understanding… Eventually I ended up having a c-section. Now I feel as though I should have waited longer to induce (if even needed). I guess what I am saying is ASK QUESTIONS; A lot of questions! and go with your motherly instinct for as long as possible. If you “doubt/uncomfortable” with something the doctors/nurses say, have them explain until you get it. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Because now, of all the things I have gone through, this experience, I sadly in some ways…regret. I feel robbed! I don’t say this to discourage you but rather encourage you! I hope this helps… in some small way; maybe! 😉

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