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The good, bad, and ugly facts about my c-sections


Whitney Barthel

posted in Pregnancy

Like any surgery, c-sections, as you may have gathered from reading parenting blogs, vary greatly in regard to ease of procedure and recovery. Now, as I near my fifth c-section, I’m a veteran with a lot of insight to share. Here are some of the, good, bad, and ugly aspects of c-sections and how to deal.


The good:

• If you are having a scheduled c-section, the delivery process after the spinal block is minimally painful. Unfortunately for me I have gone into active labor before my scheduled cesarean, but the pain during surgery was always manageable. Side note: Minimally painful does not mean you won’t feel things. It is totally normal to feel your organs being tugged around and to feel mild to moderate discomfort.

• Most hospitals have gotten really good at allowing mom to be in immediate contact with the baby, assuming both mom and baby are doing well. This has not always been the case, even in recent history. The first time I was able to experience this was with my last baby, Charlie. Tip: Make sure you have someone ready to take a picture of you with baby in the OR. Thank goodness one of my nurses grabbed my phone and took the first picture of my husband and I with the baby. At the time, I didn’t even think of taking a photo, but now the picture is now one of my most treasured.


• Shortly after surgery nurses will place leg compressors over your feet and legs to prevent blood clots and then place warm blankets on you. For me, it feels AH-MAZ-ING. It is seriously like an hours-long leg/foot massage spa package. Or, probably the closest thing I will get in the next decade or two.

The bad:

• I probably don’t need to tell you this, but there is obviously some pain associated with having a major surgery. While the delivery of a baby via c-section can sometimes be less painful than a vaginal delivery, the recovery is usually much more painful and complicated. Here are a few ways to manage your pain.

1. Use a pillow or rolled up towel to firmly hold on your incision while standing, coughing, or sneezing post-surgery. This is a life-saver, please try it!
2. Stay on top of your pain medicine. After one of my surgeries my pain medicine got messed up and I ended up in a tremendous amount of pain and had to stay an extra day in the hospital.
3. Each of my consecutive c-section have involved higher levels of post-surgery pain and increased recovery time, so be prepared.

• Gas pains in neck and shoulders. During surgery, air can get trapped in your body. Said air then tries to escape your body by migrating up towards your head and neck. This is incredibly painful. With my first c-section, I didn’t say anything until I was in so much pain I literally could not move my head. The nurse then told me that the gas bubbles needed to be massaged out as I laid down and could exit my…um, other end. It worked like you wouldn’t believe and I have done this with even the smallest sign of gas pain for each consecutive delivery.

c-section pain

The ugly:

• Some forms of pain relievers can cause intense itching. Unfortunately, I have experienced this every time. You literally look like a maniac trying to scratch your whole body, but the urge is uncontrollable. Tip: Tell your nurse if you experience post-surgery itching. Thankfully, there are medicines that can help relieve itching.

• Once you are on your way to recovery, you will start thinking about your first post-op poop. And the idea will terrify you. However ugly the idea, once you overcome this feat, you will feel like it is the second biggest accomplishment of delivering a baby. Some tips: Take as many stool softeners as your doctor/nurse will allow. Drink a lot of water. Get moving, walk as much as possible to wake up your sedated innards.

• I am not going to lie to you: c-section scars are not pretty. However, you will be surprised at how little this will bother you after your baby arrives. Tip: Have plenty of high-waisted, loose panties on hand as well as any stretchy pants that sit anywhere other than where your incision will likely occur. You will be surprised at how much avoiding irritating your c-section scar will help recovery.

A close-up image of a woman's belly with a C-Section scar still pink. Fresh C-Section scar. Scar after giving birth. Scar on a tummy. C-Section scar 2 years after giving birth

Well, friends, I could go on and on. But, for the sake of time and screen space, I’ll stop here. However, if you have any of your own questions or tips to share, check out what other moms are saying about their c-sections on BabyCenter Community.

What is your best c-section tip?


See also:
The post c-section complication I shouldn’t have ignored
Having a c-section? 7 pieces of gear that will help you recover
Would you watch your own c-section? These women did (video)


Photos by iStock, Whitney Barthel

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