C-sections: Expectations and Preparations

Elective c section. First of all I must address my hatred for the word ‘elective’. It hints at the word chosen. For some, a caesarean may have been chosen. This is completely fine, and I think any woman should have a right to choose their birth. Autonomy and informed choices are super important in giving birth! However in my situation, a c section was put upon me by the medical team as the safest and arguably the only option available. I was told at 38 weeks that my baby was in a dangerous breeched position and although I’d be supported with a vaginal birth, it was strongly advised against. With this being said, I prefer the term ‘planned’ c section, as by no means was mine part of my ideal birth plan. This is something to this day I’m still having trouble accepting (a future blog post I’m sure). 

Around 1/4 of births in the UK now are caesarean sections (1). Despite mine being ‘elective’ or a planned procedure, I was very ill prepared. I think I was still hoping baby would turn on her own before the big day arrived. 

There are a number of things I wish I had been told to make the recovery time easier and faster. For anyone who knows they’re going on for a caesarean or those who just want to be prepared just in case – I have compiled a list of tips/hacks to make the process smoother…

1. Pain relief
Stock up on over the counter pain relief! I had to send my mum out on an impromptu emergency trip the day I discharged from hospital as I realised I had none at home. I didn’t realise how much pain the first few weeks post op would cause me. Before your due date, make sure you have a few boxes of paracetamol and ibuprofen ready. If you’re going to breastfeed, paracetamol is the preferred option as the anti-inflammatory nature of ibuprofen can inhibit milk production in longer term use (so I was told by a breastfeeding councillor). 

2. Granny pants
Yep, you heard me. High wasted comfy underwear will be your best friend. I was never a thong kind of girl, but my usual hipster knickers rubbed too much on my incision site. I have to confess, 5 months post partum I’m still wearing them because they’re so comfortable. 

I also recommend a sizing up, as it takes a while for your uterus to shrink down after birth and the last thing you need it too tight undies. 

3. Prepare your house
This is a biggie. There are a few simple things you can do round the house to make your day to day life easier post surgery. 

Make sure you have a high sitting chair. For me, it was a classic Ikea chair propped up with plenty of pillows. An armchair, sofa or high up love seat would also do fine. This is so it’s easy to sit down and get up, but also reduces pressure on your scar from your legs and stomach pressing up against each other (as they would be in a low rise chair).

Snacks and hydration stations! C section or not, birth is hard and recovery requires nutrition! The worst thing is getting settled with a baby on your chest, unable to move and being hungry! Stock up little snack stations next to your high sitting chair, bed, or any other place you frequently find yourself sat. 

The last main one for me is prepare your bed. Being heavily pregnant, you’re probably accustomed to plenty of pillows! Before you head to the hospital, prop up your bed so when you lie in it post birth you’re not lying flat. This will mean your scar isn’t stretched whilst you’re in bed (I relied on the reclining remote of the hospital bed too much). It also makes getting up out of bed easier, preventing the use of your core muscles. 

4. Colostrum Harvesting

I WISH I knew about this before my daughters birth. If your planning on breastfeeding, I highly recommend researching the harvesting of your colostrum. Because my body hadn’t gone through the ‘natural’ birth process, it took about 3-4 days for my milk to come in. Prior to that, my body was producing the smallest amounts of colostrum – and I mean drops. I was producing so little that my daughter ended up having formula in the hospital (due to dehydration) whilst I expressed round the clock to try and encourage milk supply.

Since giving birth, I have looked into this I should need to have another c section in the future. Its recommended that you start hand expressing a day or so before the planned surgery (2), but I have read some mothers start from as early as a week before. You can buy special colostrum harvesting syringes. These are the preferred method in the first few days as the amount you produce will be so small, it would be wasted using a pump. These can be purchased from amazon at a reasonable price.

Colostrum can be frozen and brought to the hospital to feed your baby once you’ve given birth. Even with a vaginal birth, it may be helpful to hand express before hand. Babies can struggle to latch in the first day or so, and pre-expressed colostrum can help keep their energy up.

My take home point is, however you give birth, you’re amazing. And c section is not at all the ‘easy way out’. It’s major surgery. Your discharged with a 6 week recovery time. For me, I’ve come to learn this means AT LEAST 6 weeks. I’m 5 months post partum and very much still recovering. I heard a good quote once:

‘9 months to grow a baby, 9 months to recover’ 

This is a great message. The misconception of bouncing back is so inaccurate. Growing a whole ass human takes its toll on a body and we need to give ourselves time, c section or not. I hope these tips and experiences makes your recovery process better, or at least more prepared for.


1 – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/

2 – https://www.laleche.org.uk/antenatal-expression-of-colostrum/#pregnant

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