What to Expect During and After a C-section

mum lying next to newborn baby after birth

I've had two c-sections to deliver my boys and let's get one thing straight - it is not the easy way out at all. It's major surgery and recovery can be long and difficult. I found with both pregnancies, there wasn't a lot of "official" information to prepare me mentally and physically for a c-section. I ended up doing a lot of googling and reading through forums and other blogs to get an idea of what to expect. Today I'm going to share with you my experience of my two caesareans with the boys. I'll give some tips for what to expect during your c-section and after.

During a C-Section

Of course, all hospital trusts differ slightly but I'll share my experience at St Michael's hospital in Bristol. Typically when you have your baby's due date, a planned caesarean will take place the week before. It depends on other requirements and emergencies but usually, you can expect a planned c-section a week before your due date. If you're not planning on a c-section and you end up having one, my experience should still be relevant. If you are awake during the operation, an anaesthetist will come to your room and chat through what will happen. We took some music to play during the op and this helped stop my mind wandering off to worrying things. While you're waiting, you'll be asked to get into your gown and your partner will need to get into scrubs.

Your anaesthetist will come and get you when it's time to go down to the theatre. We walked down and I remember feeling so anxious. The operating theatre was bigger than I expected but the actual operating table much smaller. And there were so many people. The first thing they will do is get your cannula in place. It typically goes into the back of your hand but they had problems with mine. They ended up popping it down my wrist. I was relieved to be honest just to have it in! Once it's in, everything else can crack on!

Next up is spinal. I found it most natural to hunch over, sat on the side of the bed. With my first son, they made me lie down and it just didn't feel right. And subsequently, they weren't able to get the spinal in properly. The second time around, I told them I would prefer to sit and lean over. They got it in straight away. When they get the spinal in, you may feel a warm or tingly sensation up your legs. As soon as it is in, they get you up on the bed and lie you down. A screen goes up between you and the surgeons and there's just a lot going on. I felt really out of control but also well looked after. As in there was nowhere I could go at this point and we were having a baby.

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During the Op

Before they begin, I think they spray you with cold air or pinch your skin to check you're numb. I'm not entirely sure as I didn't feel a thing. This confirmed I'm numb and they are ready to get going! Everyone has a different experience and varying sensations, but for me, I didn't feel a thing. I'd heard people say a c-section is like someone washing up in your belly. I didn't think this as I literally felt nothing. The only time I did feel something was them pushing and wobbling me a bit. They were basically delivering my baby out. Just before this, I heard a lot of whooshing - the surgeon sucking away all the fluid. With my second, when I heard this sound, I knew our baby would be born very soon.

And out he popped. We hadn't found out the gender so it was lovely for them to say "it's a boy"! Personally, I didn't want the screen lowered as my anxiety is terrible when it comes to anything remotely squeamish. Once they'd given our son a clean, they popped him on to me.

One thing to note during the op, If you feel a bit sick or nauseous, tell your anaesthetist right away. It's usually your blood pressure. 

Stitching Up

This part can take a good twenty minutes or so but to be honest, we were so smitten with our boys that it didn't feel like a long time. Before I knew it, they were moving me into a hospital bed and wheeling me out to the recovery room.

Recovery and the Ward

We relaxed in the recovery room for a couple of hours and lots of midwives were in and out to help with breastfeeding.  The recovery bay was lovely and calm. We were then taken up to the ward and to be honest, the hospital stay was as unrelaxing as I expected. Noisy, busy and not at all conducive to any kind of rest. With my first boy, I stayed in for a few days to get help with breastfeeding but the second time around I just wanted to get home.

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Getting out of Bed

No one told me that the first time they get you to stand up out of bed, a load of blood can come gushing out of your vagina. When you're lying down, it can pool. This can be quite scary if you're not expecting a gush of blood. Have a maternity pad ready to hold underneath. 


During recovery, you can end up with a lot of wind - but all around the body. I had a lot of pain in my ribs, shoulders and abdomen. Peppermint tea really helped to ease it through.

Recovery at Home

Everyone is different and some women really will bounce back after a c-section and others won't. I'd say my first c-section was very textbook and recovery was fairly easy. I took it slow and had lots of help at home. The second time around, recovery was a lot harder. Maybe because it was a second section or my older age. Who knows. It just felt a lot harder and recovery took a while. The incision got infected and I didn't feel back to any normal for a good eight weeks. The main thing that helped was taking it very slow and not doing a lot at all. 

Both sections and both recoveries were completely different. And what I experienced is just that - my experience. So as much as I can share that, you'll have your experience and it will be vastly different to mine.

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