Everything you need to know about a c-section and your most important c-section essentials. What to expect from a scheduled c-section. And what you need to bring to the hospital.
C-Section Essentials That Will Make You Feel Prepared
As I heard those words, “if he hasn’t turned in a few weeks, we’ll schedule you for surgery,” I felt my stomach sink. A C-section? I had never imagined my pregnancy would end that way.
After fighting to keep myself from having a c-section with my first baby (he finally turned), I ended up having one anyway (I was induced at 37 weeks and ended up having to have an unscheduled c-section). And after pushing for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section) and stressing the entire pregnancy about whether or not it would actually happen with my second, I ended up, once again, unexpectedly having a c-section.
If you’re reading this, you’re one step ahead of me because you probably already know that you’re having a c-section. I’m guessing your c-section is scheduled and you have the time to plan and prepare, which is a great advantage.
I’m going to walk you through what to expect from your c-section (the stuff no one tells you about) to help ease some of your concerns and then give you the c-section essentials you’ll need. After reading this you’ll be prepared and, hopefully, less worried about the whole thing.
Be Prepared by Knowing What to Expect
Before Your Surgery
Before your nurse takes you into the operating room, you will change into a hospital gown and she will insert an IV. The IV will allow the anesthesiologist to administer any emergency medication that may become necessary during the procedure.
The nurse will also shave you if you are not already shaved. You can do this yourself at home before you come in if you’d prefer. Shave the area below your underwear line.
They will also have you remove any metal that you are wearing. If you want to wear a bra, come in wearing a nursing bra with no metal.
If the father of your baby is there, they will give him some surgical-wear to change into. He is allowed in the operating room after they’ve prepared you for surgery.
Once You’re in the OR
Before the Surgery
When they get you into the OR, it will just be you, your nurse, and the anesthesiologist at first. They will have you sit on the side of the operating table and curl your back (they might give you a pillow to hug to help you do this), so the anesthesiologist can insert the needle for the spinal block.
This is a long needle into your spine, just like with an epidural, so it’s important that you remain very still. You will feel a sort of pinch (it will hurt a little, but is over quickly) and then your lower body will immediately begin to go numb.
The nurse will lay you back on the table and have you put your legs up like a frog so they can insert a catheter–don’t worry, you won’t feel it.
Now comes the fun part. They will strap you to the table almost like you’re on a cross. Arms and legs get strapped down. They’re also going to lift your gown all the way up to your chest. So you will be basically naked and strapped to a table. Then the surgical team will come in.
This can feel pretty humiliating if you aren’t prepared for it. I remember feeling like my last shred of dignity was lost at this point when I had my first c-section. But it wasn’t a big deal with my second because I was prepared for it.
During the Surgery
They will put up a drape to block you from seeing anything that they are doing. At this point, they pretty much get to work and it’s like you’re not even there. They will let your spouse in that at this point too, which can be really helpful.
I ended up having to be sedated with my first c-section, but I remember feeling my husband rubbing my hand, which helped me not feel so alone. With my second, he talked to me throughout, repeating what the medical team was saying so I could hear, and described what our baby looked like as soon as they had him out. It helped to make it a more pleasant experience.
You won’t feel any pain, but you will feel some tugging and pulling. I also felt an intense burning in my chest at one point and nausea.
Once they have your baby out, they will clean him/her up and it will feel like forever before they bring him/her over to where you can see. After all, this is the reason you’re going through all this. They will hand the baby off to your husband/baby’s father. Remember, your arms are strapped down, so you won’t be able to hold your baby yet.
After the Surgery
Once they have you closed up, they will give you the baby or lay the baby between your legs and wheel you to a recovery room on a gurny. The recovery room is normally a shared room with other moms who have just come from a c-section. There are curtains to give you privacy.
They will try to help you latch your baby if you’re planning on breastfeeding. And will make sure you are stable. You will probably be freezing and maybe not feeling so great. They’ll get you medication and blankets. Probably change you from the hospital gown to a lovely postpartum gown (basically just as ugly as a hospital gown but it snaps open at the top for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding). They will also begin to press on your stomach really hard (pretty much feels like they’re punching you in the stomach) about every 15 minutes to help your uterus contract.
Once You’re in a Room
At some point, they will move you to a room.
Once they move you to a room, your postpartum nurse will get you up to walk around. It seems crazy that they want you to walk after just having surgery, but this helps get your digestive system moving, prevemts blood clots, and helps with recovery. You will be on a liquid diet until you can give them confirmation that your digestive system is working, so you want to make sure you’re walking.
It will be difficult to stand and even more difficult to walk. Due to the anesthesia, you may not feel any pain for a while, but you will feel stiff. Once the anesthesia wears off, you will likely feel a lot of pain.
I felt pretty good the first day after my first c-section and didn’t think I needed any pain medication. The pain all came on really quickly in the middle of the night and had me hitting the call button for the nurse.
10 C-Section Essentials to Pack for the Hospital
Ok, so now that you’re prepared and know what to expect, what should you bring to the hospital? Here are the items that are essential specifically for a c-section.
- Nursing gowns
- Non-slip socks or slippers
- Nursing and pumping bras
- 2-3 Sets of Clothes
- Disposable Underwear
- A large tumbler for water
These are my favorite nursing gowns for the hospital because they’re soft, long, and cover everything. The last thing you want is a low-cut nursing gown that leaves you constantly adjusting or unknowingly exposed when one of the many hospital visitors pops in.
Even if you’re not a gown person, this is the one time you’re going to make an exception. It’s really painful to have anything pressing against your incision at this point. If you’re like me, you won’t want anything near it. It’s amazing how a loose waistband can suddenly feel constricting after a c-section.
Remember you will be walking the hospital halls periodically. A robe is great to be able to throw on over little or inappropriate clothes. If your baby was born premature or if he/she needs extra care, you may also be walking through the hospital to the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) to see and feed your baby.
Non-Slip Socks or Slippers
Non-slip socks or slippers are helpful for walking on cold floors when you don’t feel very stable. My hospital provided non-slip socks, but they weren’t the nicest. It’s always helpful to have items that make you feel a little less frumpy and more pulled together after a c-section (more on that later).
Nursing and Pumping Bras
Remember you are probably at least going to try to nurse your baby. I also ended up having to pump in the hospital with both of my babies. (My first had to spend time in the NICU and my second wouldn’t latch right away). It’s nice to have a pumping bra with you so you don’t have to sit with your breasts out while you pump. I like the Kindred Bravely 2-in-1 Bra for this because it’s both a nursing and pumping bra, so you pack it for nursing but have it for pumping, just in case.
2-3 Sets of Clothes
After a c-section, you never know how long you’ll be in the hospital. My first baby was born Sunday morning and we didn’t leave until Wednesday. I completely ran out of clothes to wear and had to try shoving myself into the maternity jeans that I’d come in wearing so I could walk down to the NICU.
A lot of the clothes I packed also didn’t fit me because you swell a lot after a c-section, so loose baggy clothes are your best bet (see what to wear after a c-section for specific suggestions for what to wear).
I showered as soon as I could after both my babies were born. I’m not sure why, but it seems to help you feel like a person again. Plus, you never know when you’ll get a chance to take a shower again.
The hospital will set you up with a bunch of thick pads and the mesh underwear setup that’s so popular, but you don’t bleed as much with a c-section so you don’t really need all that. Once you are cleaned up, it can be more comfortable to switch to these disposable underwear (remember you will be swollen so it doesn’t hurt to size up from your prepregnancy size).
Some people want their makeup in the hospital and some of us couldn’t care less. I think if you’re the type of person who never goes anywhere without makeup, you’ll want it. On the other hand, if you’re ok with going without makeup on occasion, you probably won’t put it on in the hospital.
I will say, after a few days in a hospital bed, you start to feel so gross that you want to look a little better, so if makeup does that for you, pack some. (I packed mine with my first and didn’t want it and didn’t pack it with my second and did.)
A Large Tumbler for Water
If you don’t already have one of these, get one that can hold a good amount of water and that you can open and drink with one hand. You’ll need to drink a lot of water to help with swelling.
I’m kind of serious (and kind of joking) about this. You’re put on a liquid diet after a c-section, so if you have a flavor of Jell-O you like, it’ll be the one treat you can have. (And maybe pack some other snacks for your husband/significant other if you want to be nice or if you don’t want him to constantly disappear because he needs to eat.)
So there you have it, that’s what you can expect from your c-section and all the c-section essentials you need to feel prepared. Don’t forget to grab your free printable hospital bag checklist with all of these essentials, so you don’t forget a thing! Don’t worry, you’re going to do great. And just like with any delivery, you get the reward of your brand new baby at the end of it. Don’t forget to check out my post on c-section postpartum essentials to find out what you need at home after your c-section.
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Bhargava, H. D. (2020, July 16). C-section (cesarean section): Why it’s done & what to expect. WebMD. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/baby/what-happens-during-c-section#1
Johnson, T. C. (2020, October 14). Emergency C-section: Why would I have one and what are the risks? WebMD. Retrieved August 18, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/baby/emergency-c-section#1