Don’t be afraid; Self-care and preparation from a c-section mama

After attending the Shebirths course and following the recommendations to a tee, first-time mama, Charlene was shocked to discover her follow her doctor’s advice to follow through with a c-section delivery for her large-headed baby.

She and her husband had felt they’d done everything to prepare for a vaginal birth, she felt disappointed and took some time to accept this new path.

By researching, reading everything she could about other women’s c-section experience, as well as checking in with SheBirths mentor, she eventually found her way.

And sure enough, Charlene and her husband welcomed their son in a clam and empowering way – as a united family.  

Here are Charlene’s tips she wanted to share with fellow expectant first-time mamas, who are weighing up the c-section option.

You can read her full birth story here.


Preparing for your c-section

The obstetrician or midwife will advise when to stop eating and drinking but make sure you drink plenty of clear fluids up until the cut off period – this will help with plumping your veins for the pre-surgery blood test as well as insertion of the cannula.

  1. Purchase several pairs of disposable mesh underwear, the New Beginnings brand is great and as you won’t want  want anything tight around your abdomen post-surgery.
  2. Pack nighties/baggy dresses – you may be too sore to dress yourself in pants during your hospital stay, as lifting your legs up will be challenging.
  3. Pack outfits that don’t have seams or anything that could rub against your incision e.g. stretchy leggings or yoga pants (as opposed to jeans).
  4. Pack slippers or Ugg boots that don’t require you to bend and pull them up e.g. slip on shoes.
  5. Your pubic region will be shaved for the surgery – you may feel more comfortable doing this yourself, otherwise the surgical team will do this in theatre.

Making yourself comfortable during your c-section birth

Ask for the cannula to be inserted near the back of your wrist instead of the back of your hand to allow more free motion of your hand and wrist to hold bub (this was a suggestion by our anaesthetist).

  1. For the spinal block, relax your whole body weight into the person in front of you, don’t tense any muscles. The local anaesthetic will sting and the sensation spreads across your lower back, but you won’t feel the spinal block at all. Ask if your partner can be in the room with you for support.
  2. Ask if it’s possible for only the arm with the cannula to be outstretched on the surgery table. It feels less confronting/exposed than having both arms outstretched.
  3. Horsey breaths help with countering the pressure during surgery.
  4. Stay connected with your baby by visualising that you’re on a rocky boat journey to an island. The rocking symbolises the pressure and pulling sensation during surgery. Imagine the waters are choppy, and you’re lying in a boat floating towards the island where you’ll meet your baby for the first time.
  5. Different obstetricians will use different dressings – mine used a clear, waterproof dressing that stayed intact until my 6 week postpartum checkup, which was when it was removed. It was great because it kept my wound dry and clean.


Throughout the first  24 hours post op, expect to be interrupted every 2-3 hours for constant monitoring by the midwives. They will take your blood pressure and temperature, and ask how your pain is. If you are not using morphine via your IV drip, they will bring your pain medication when it’s due. These checkups can be challenging when you are trying to sleep!

  1. Take advantage of the catheter (up to first 12 hours post-surgery depending on time of birth) by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you’re not thirsty. It helps with flushing out the medication.
  2. You will be given cuffs to wear around your legs post-op. These inflate and compress to encourage blood flow and prevent clots in your legs before you take your first walk. Your first walk will be painful and very challenging, but try to get up and take a few steps, even if it’s a few shuffles as this will help with circulation and recovery.
  3. Stay in your hospital gown or dress in a nightie/baggy dress while the catheter is still in use so that it doesn’t need to be threaded through pant legs.
  4. Have a towel nearby for the night sweats. You may experience intense night sweats for the first few nights after birth as the medication wears off, combined with the release of hormones.
  5. Make sure you are warm immediately after showering, as shivering is very painful after a C section, as is laughing, coughing and sneezing.
  6. If your shower products are located on the floor, buy a plastic shelf/stool to raise them to a higher level. I used a bath toy scooper which has a suction holder that I stuck to the shower screen.
  7. Apply pressure to your wound when you laugh, cough or sneeze.
  8. Use a belly band or wear compression recovery shorts as soon as you can handle having something around your abdomen. This will help with preventing the feeling that your insides are going to fall out.

The journey home

Make sure you  have a towel ready in the car for the ride home to roll/fold up as padding for the part of the seatbelt that sits across your hips. Have your partner/driver slow down around speed humps, potholes and driveways as it can hurt to ride over these.

  1. Keep your compression socks on for 2 weeks postpartum, until the swelling goes away.
  2. Discuss with your partner that they may need to contribute more towards physical labour while your body recovers post-op. Ask family and friends to help with physical things around the house when they visit – housework, lifting things, etc. Ask them to help with caring for your baby as well, e.g. changing, bathing, settling as these are physically demanding tasks that may put a strain on your recovering body.
  3. Avoid twisting your torso if you’re picking up bub. Buy a “reacher” claw or have an extremely long pair of tongs with you at all times – in the first couple of weeks after a C section, you can’t reach or bend for anything as your wound will be too sore. I used mine to reach for things whilst breastfeeding, I used it to pick things up off the floor, and to help dress myself eg. pulling pants up.
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