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Can you talk me through your c section?

39 replies

crazychemist · 30/07/2020 19:44

Hi All,

I’ve seen lots of threads where people have discussed their recovery etc, or have compared elective c section to vaginal birth.... but I’m feeling a bit clueless about how a c section actually works!

I had a vaginal birth for DD1 nearly 4 years ago, which I was very happy with and fully understood - I’d been to the NCT classes and knew about stages of labour, pain relief, skin to skin afterwards etc. That won’t be how it’s going to go this time - almost certainly going to be a c section (identical twins sharing a placenta which is not ideally placed, so consultant says outcome for twin 2 might be poor with vaginal birth)

Can you talk me through what happens? I’ve got some specific questions, but any guidance would be wonderful, I’ve not seen my midwife since I found out it was twins (lockdown) and I didn’t feel comfortable asking the consultant this kind of question!

An epidural is a spinal injection. Do they do this once you are in theatre, or does it take a while to kick in? Can they tell if it’s wearing off, or does it suddenly just start hurting? (Bit nervous about this)

How soon after they’ve finished are you able to get up and move? I assume the epidural had to wear off enough that you can feel your legs?

When do they put the catheter in? Does it hurt when they do it? How long does it stay in after and does that hurt?

Are you able to do skin to skin? Do the midwives look after the baby while the doctors finish up, or can you hold them? How soon can you breastfeed? With DD1 the midwife encouraged it immediately and said it would help trigger further contractions to push placenta out and then help uterus to shrink, but this sounds like it might be a bad idea to have things moving quickly if I’ve just been stitched up.

How long does it take from when they start cutting to when the baby and placenta are out?

As you can tell, I’m feeling pretty clueless, so anything you can think of that I should know, please do share it!

OP posts:
binkyblinky · 30/07/2020 19:51

Hi lovely I'm going to dictate this as it will be quite long so apologies if there are any mistakes.

I've had 3 c-sections and never given birth vaginally.

My first C-section was in 2009 and it was an emergency with my son who was born at 32 weeks prematurely. I can't remember much about it as I was so poorly.

Second C section was in 2011 and I can remember it not being a pleasant experience as the anaesthetist struggled to find the right spot to put the spinal block in.

Third C section was in 2018 and it went smoothly everything was fine.

It's really straightforward they will you into theatre and ask you to sit on the edge of a operating table and they ask you to lean forward exposing your back they give you several small injections of local anaesthetic and then they insert the spinal block. It is uncomfortable but not painful I can't quite describe it a lot of pressure on your lower spine. All of a sudden your feet will feel tingly and they will whip you onto your back. then they will spray you with a very cold spray and when you can't feel the coldness anymore this is when they know it's worked they will lift up the front of your gown and pin it up and you will just lie there and all of a sudden your babies will be out and it's magical absolutely wonderful experience. All in all it takes about 30 minutes and I was lucky enough in my hospital to be able to lower the gown and they lifted my son out and I've even got a photo of this which will try to attach. Well they are busy sewing you back up they will check the babies are okay and you'll get to hold them and hopefully your husband or your partner too.
You'll go through to recovery for awhile but the babies will be with you at all times and provided there are no complications he will be back up on the ward within an hour or two.

You'll be walking around fairly quickly in fact I encourage this get on your feet as soon as possible get your legs working again and yes it's painful however I imagine it's nowhere near as painful as giving birth vaginally!

Crackerofdoom · 30/07/2020 19:54

The spinal is done in theatre. You sit on the edge of the table and lean on someone whilst the anesthetist does it. It is pretty uncomfortable but only lasts for a few seconds.

The cathetar goes in after you are numb so you won't feel it. It will stay until you are capable of going to the toilet, so once you are steady on your legs.

The things I was surprised by were

  1. How quickly the baby is out. It was less than 2 minutes from the start of the procedure for me.

2. How long it takes to close you up. The surgeon will be checking inside to ensure nothing has been damaged and that takes time. It was about 40 minutes before I was closed up with my first.

It was super calm but you may feel really cold for ages afterwards. It was also weird for me because I was in a teaching hospital and the surgeon was pointing out my internal organs to his student whilst I was lying there!

You still get skin to skin in the operating theatre and it is lovely.

With my 2nd csec, I only bled for about a day afterwards. It depends on how they clean you out I guess. They take out the placenta during surgery.

The worst bit for me was tge pain in my shoulders and neck. It is air which gets trapped in your abdomen during the surgery and has nowhere to go. I had a physio who did some massage and ecercises with me which helped to dissipate it for me.

With BF you can do it straight away, but when you are flat on the table it can be hard. I found it difficult to get a good position because of the epidural and ended up with really sore nipples from a poor latch.

Oh, and you need to shave or they will do it for you. And much lower than you think you need to!
ShrimpingViolet · 30/07/2020 19:57

Hi OP Smile Try not to worry. My C section was after a failed induction so I was quite knackered. Tried my best to answer your questions...

I had a spinal block not an epidural - think this is usual. They do it in theatre when you have your gown on. I sat on the edge of the bed. You get told to stay very still and sort of hunch forward. But it doesn't hurt - you feel an either hot or cold sensation in your body as it kicks in (can't remember which it actually was!)

They are very, very careful and studious about making sure you can't feel anything so don't worry about that at all.

My section was about 11am and I got out of bed that evening. Takes a good few hours to get all of your sensation back. You'll also have a lot of pads etc under you which will be pretty bloody when changed/you get up (wish someone had told me this as it was quite shocking!)

They put the catheter in while you're in theatre and after the spinal so you don't feel it. I had it in till the next morning very early. Doesn't hurt when it's taken out at all, promise. They got me to do a deep breath in and out and there was just a bit of funny sensation.

You can have skin to skin right away - just make sure you tell the doctors/midwives in the room exactly what you'd like. I didn't try bf till in recovery a short while later so not sure on that bit.

How long till the baby is out...for me probably less than two mins. Very quick.

Hope this is helpful! Anything else you think of I will try and answer Smile

Wudgy · 30/07/2020 20:00

My experience: If planned Spinal Is done in theatre, into back as you are asked to bend over and stay still. It kicks in quickly and they check using an icecube across the tummy and ask when u can feel it, then up goes a screen so u can’t see ur tummy. Catheter inserted at this stage I think and can’t feel anything!Your birth partner comes in at that stage and sits up at your head. The anaesthetist sits up at shoulder and talks to u throughout, the do the procedure and then show u baby and baby gets quick check over beside u and the if all ok baby brought over for u to “hold” aka draped across your neck ! You can take photos etc while they stitch u up. Baby then goes with birth partner to recovery room and you are wheeled too. Encouraged skin on skin and breastfeeding if u want, the staff then come to give u a bed bath before I ate brought to the ward! U can start to feel ur legs and feet within a few hrs and then encouraged to get up even with Catheter in and sit on chair ( I think) then grandually move about etc. Then I think within 8hrs of section the Catheter is Removed ( not sure of timing) and u are encouraged to drink plenty and pee!!

binkyblinky · 30/07/2020 20:00

I'm trying to attach pictures as we literally got them lifting my third out and they are amazing! But I can't!

ShrimpingViolet · 30/07/2020 20:01

Also - my blood pressure kept dropping extremely low during the actual procedure. Felt like I was about to fade out of consciousness which was scary at the time but the anaesthetist will be right by your head. I chatted to mine and kept asking him if I was okay (sure he was delighted). But he was lovely. Blood pressure recovered shortly afterwards in recovery.

crazychemist · 30/07/2020 20:05

Thanks both of you, that’s really helpful! @Crackerofdoom, I’d not even considered that the closing up part would take longer than getting the baby out! So different from a vbirth (massive build up, then suddenly done!). Thats a good point about difficulty feeding while lying down too, I hadn’t thought of that. @binkyblinky that’s a good way to look at the pain.... I think I’ll be less tolerant though, I didn’t mind the pain of contractions because I knew that each one brought my daughter closer.... but I raised hell (much to DH’s amusement) when the midwife was having a poke around afterwards to decide if I needed stitches!

OP posts:
crazychemist · 30/07/2020 20:06

Wow, more responses while I was typing! Thank you for all the info!

OP posts:
binkyblinky · 30/07/2020 20:07

Honestly. It's pain afterwards, bring a pillow for the car journey home and put it over your stomach. You'll be amazed at how quickly you'll be up and about.
I agree with the previous post about feeling cold. I was completely off my face and can remember telling the anaesthetist how
Amazing she was for doing it without hurting me!

SnugglySnerd · 30/07/2020 20:10

I've had an emergency section and a planned one for a twin delivery.

What people have already said is pretty much my experience too but be aware that with a twin delivery there is double of everything - there will be 3 midwives (one for you, one for each baby), 2 doctors for the babies, the anesthetist, the surgeon and I forget who else plus 2 of those things they put the babies on with lamps and equipment in case they need any help straight after delivery (there would have been one on your delivery room first time around).

I found the experience of walking into this bright, hi-tech room full of strangers quite overwhelming as nobody had prepared me for it. I burst into tears! There was no need to worry though, they were amazing, introduced themselves, talked to us throughout etc.

Dh was there throughout including for putting in the spinal. We cuddled a baby each while they were closing me up.

There was no pain during the op just a strange sensation of someone rummaging about in my body! The midwife on the ward gave me the choice of having the catheter removed that evening keep waiting until the morning so I wouldn't have to get up to wee, which is what I opted for.

The pain afterwards is manageable so long as you stay on top of the drugs and ask for stronger ones if you need it.

Good luck! Twins are hard work but so cute and it's lovely seeing their own relationship with each other develop.

user1493413286 · 30/07/2020 20:12

I’ll talk you through my elective one this year and hopefully it’ll answer your questions- I went into the operating theatre at 2.30 and baby was out by 3.15 and I was in recovery by 4. They do the spinal and the part where they test you to make sure it works is probably what takes the longest then they do the catheter. Baby was out pretty quickly and they pulled the screen down a little so we could see him come out (but not so much that it made DH pass out), they showed him to me and then took him to check him out and DH brought him back and he was put on my chest while they finished up; that went really quickly as I was in awe of my baby and as soon as we were back in recovery I breastfed him with midwives putting him in position. I started to get some feeling back in my legs within 2 hours; because I had him later in the day and was asleep at 3/4am they left my catheter in until I woke at 6 otherwise I think they normally have it out within 12 hours and you’re up and moving by then. It doesn’t hurt when it’s in and having it removed is an odd sensation but not painful.
The epidural gradually wears off so you’d know if it happened during with a bit of warning; I was nervous about this and the anaesthetist told me that they can very quickly increase it or if necessary put you under very quickly (although they said that’s incredibly rare).
When you breastfeed and your uterus contracts down it is more painful with the scar but it doesn’t last too long and I learnt to grit my teeth and breathe through it for the first few seconds.

user1493413286 · 30/07/2020 20:13

Also for mine the anaesthetic and doctors came to meet me beforehand and everyone was introduced in theatre which was reassuring

Poochnewbie · 30/07/2020 20:22

I had a planned section.
I was given a spinal block which was completely painless. If I remember correctly, it worked very quickly. There was an odd sensation as baby was brought out; a little like washing up in my stomach but no pain at all. There were a few times when I started to feel a little queasy. I mentioned this to the anaesthetist and he did something (I don’t know what) and the feeling was gone quickly.
They put a soft sling on me so that I could have skin to skin while I was stitched up. I was so besotted with baby that I have no memory of what that was like.
I was taken to recovery with the baby still in the sling and was able to bf then.
I think the catheter was put in before I went to recovery - no pain. Also no pain when it was removed.
I felt quite sick and was sick a couple of times in recovery but was okay after. Nurses cane and gave me a tins injection.
I was a bit woozy and my blood pressure kept dropping really quickly when I stood for a couple of days after. I kept on top of pain meds so wasn’t really too uncomfortable.
My scar was very neat and healed with no problems and I was probably back to being able to do most things comfortably in a couple of weeks. Having the stitches out was no problem.
All in all, for me, it was great experience - so much better than vaginal. For me, c-section was way less stressful and actually quite enjoyable. I felt way more calm and in control.

BIRDSbirds · 30/07/2020 20:23

I hope this isnt too long! I had a c section after a very long failed induction so apologies if my memory is patchy.

Consultant talked me through it first and I got to ask any questions. We asked to put my playlist on which was really calming and asked if my husband cut the cord and I could have skin to skin asap. They were really accommodating! Had to sign some paperwork too.

Had to bend over while anaesthetist did the spinal. Didnt hurt just felt cold, then he checked I couldn't feel anything. I think that's when catheter went in.

In theatre there are lots of people, consultant, anaesthetist and nurses for you, midwives and paediatrician just in case for baby. They all introduced themselves which was nice! Husband came in in scrubs then too. Theres also a little sheet upright over your chest so you cant see what's going on.

As pp said, baby came out quick! It didnt hurt at all, but could feel some tugging and rifling around. They held him up to me and told me he was a boy then they took him off to the side to weighed him, cut cord and cleaned him up. He was then put on my chest. I felt really shaky at this point (apparently normal side effect). It took quite a while to sew me all back up, maybe about 45 mins? And they counted all the instruments back on the table at the end.

Had to have catheter in overnight and it took till the morning to have feeling in my legs again. Midwives are quite keen to have you walking asap and in the shower - it did feel like my insides were about to fall out to start with!

Other things (sorry if tmi) - they remove a lot of the placenta and tissue from your womb so you have slightly lighter bleeding. Also just be super careful and slow when lifting things. I felt mostly ok if I was slow within 2 to 3 weeks but over did it about 4 weeks after (pretty standard apparently) and set me back a bit. The scar and surrounding area also felt super numb for ages. Took about a year to feel properly normal.

I found my induction traumatic but c section was brilliant! Just take it easy and look out for signs of infection.

And congrats on your babies!

Hubstar · 30/07/2020 20:27

Hi. I’ve had 2. Both emergencies.

Both were fine. I was up and walking within 4 hrs. I also walked near on a a mile within 6 hrs. (Both children taken to neo natal). Bloody miles away!

Umm. I was worried about the spinal. Doesn’t hurt. Though I tried to turn to talk to my anaesthesiologist. Got shouted at. Very loudly by about 16 people!

RowboatsinDisguise · 30/07/2020 20:28

I had an emergency caesarean (I hate calling it that, it was a cat 2 because he was a bit stuck but tbh it all felt very relaxed and fine. It wasn’t a big drama at all) a coupe of years ago and have also been in theatre for countless cesareans as a midwife.

For an elective procedure the spinal block is done in theatre with you sitting up in the operating table which is just like a narrow bed. They usually get you to curl round a pillow to get into a good position. Once it’s in, it works very quickly. The catheter is usually put in once everyone is happy that you are numb. For ladies who already have an epidural on board they will usually ‘convert’ the epidural to a spinal. The anaesthetist and ODP will stay with you at the head end throughout the procedure and if you start to have any pain at all (sensations like someone rummaging round in your insides are normal, pain isn’t!) they will give you additional medication, try tilting the bed, or as a very last resort put you under a general anaesthetic if they are unable to manage your pain. I had some lovely morphine whilst they were stitching me up as it started to get a bit stingy - it was great!

Getting the baby(babies) out is very quick. Usually from ‘knife to skin’ to birth is about 5 minutes. I asked for the surgeon to delay cord clamping when my son was born, so they held him for a couple of minutes before cutting the cord and bringing him straight onto my chest. They also dropped the drapes so we could see him being born. These are things that can usually be accommodated if you ask for them but sadly aren’t always part of standard practise currently. Sometimes if babies need a little bit of help, or there are concerns about what condition a baby will be born in, the baby will need to be taken to a resuscitare for a paediatrician to check them over. Speak to your midwife on the day of your operation about whether they think they will need this to happen or whether you can have immediate skin to skin (obviously emergencies can occur that mean this option may not be viable). I made sure I had an arm out of my gown when I went in to theatre so that it was easy to tuck DS in with me. Babies usually take a little whilst to wake up properly after being born so don’t tend to feed straight away, although some do and they can feed in theatre if they will! The ‘putting everything back together and sewing you up’ stage usually takes 30 mins or so and you can usually just enjoy cuddles at this time. Your birth partner can take one or both twins if you feel unwell.

My legs came back about 3 or 4 hours post-surgery and I was fully mobile by about 5 hours. I got up and walked around at 6 hours. The sooner you can be mobile, the better really. In my experience this really aids recovery. Obviously don’t go mad but a little potter around your bed is good. Do let someone know before you plan to get up though! Your catheter can usually come out 12 hours after the op so you do have to drag a bag round for a bit! It doesn’t hurt at all to be removed, and once the balloon inside your bladder is deflated it just sort of slides out.

I was out of hospital 24 hours later and honestly felt fine, if a bit battered.

crazychemist · 30/07/2020 20:30

Wow, this is so helpful, thank you everyone! I feel much better prepared already, and a lot less worried.

@SnugglySnerd, it’s particularly useful to hear a twin delivery story. Sounds like there will be a lot of people in the room! That’s oddly comforting, especially the thought of their being 3 midwives. I really want to be able to hold my babies as soon as possible, but I’m comforted to know that there will be experienced hands around if I can’t manage.

@user1493413286 thanks for the info about breastfeeding being painful. I thought it would be with a wound, and I hope I can cope with the pain, but it’s good to know that it’s not doing damage to do it even if it hurts.

@ShrimpingViolet, that sounds quite scary about your blood pressure! I felt pretty woozy after I’d had DD1, and I thought I was going to pass out the first time I went to the loo, so will be watching out for these things this time round. Nice to think the anaesthetist is just there.

OP posts:
Mummysgonetobed · 30/07/2020 20:31

I’ve had 3 sections and all been similar stories to the previous posters.

Only thing from me would be to be aware how you feel when you first lay down after the spinal block. Your blood pressure drops as you do and it can make you feel very odd. Mine plummets very quickly it seems and I was hot, clammy, dizzy, felt like I couldn’t breathe. Was really really scared at that point. It only lasted a couple of minutes til they gave me meds to sort it though.

But I spoke to the anaesthetist before my 3rd section and she had prepared some lovely drugs to give me as I laid down and it really helped.

Also morphine can make you itch so ask after for anti histamine if you need it.

And for the trapped wind in your shoulders, drink peppermint tea, works wonders.

Good luck!

Hubstar · 30/07/2020 20:32

I’ve read everyone being in pain after

I didn’t even have paracetamol!

It’s all relative. It was a bit sore. For sure. But i wouldn’t of said painful. For me

Some women don’t get out of bed for 4 days.

I also got cellulitis in my wound. It also op Ned up. Again neither were painful.

I thought it was fine!

SnugglySnerd · 30/07/2020 20:42

I'm trying to remember anything else twin-specific for you now!!

One other thing I remembered is that another woman on the ward (c section only ward) kept vomiting, apparently this is a common effect of anaesthetic. I was unaffected, in fact I was desperate for a cup of tea!

girlfrombackthen · 30/07/2020 20:45


I had an emergency c-section. I loved the epidural after hours of labour with just a paracetamol for pain relief (but that's another story). The oddest thing was seeing my own legs appear in front of me in stirrups!

I just wanted to share as my experience was slightly different to others - DS was delivered, they reassured me he was fine but because of concerns about his distress during labour (and a whole lot of meconium) he had to be checked over by paediatrician (and presumably hosed down as he was returned as clean as a whistle). That meant I was not able to do skin to skin... My DP and I were then able to introduce ourselves before DP and DS went through to recovery while they stitched me up. So it wasn't until I was in recovery 30/45 mins later that I was able to breastfeed. (Ended up BF until 15 months!)

I suppose like any birth plan, there may be reasons why things don't quite work out how you imagined so it is worth having that in mind.

I second the PP who mentioned shaving. I was already convinced that the dressing was the only thing holding my belly together and effectively having a brutal wax when it was removed did not help at all!

ShrimpingViolet · 30/07/2020 20:59

That aspect was a bit scary @crazychemist but honestly it was all fine. Helps that they tell you beforehand that it's common for blood pressure to drop during the actual procedure, and that everyone is so calm in the room.

The radio was on for mine and there was a lot of laughing and joking between the midwives and doctors. There was meconium when they went in caused by my blood pressure dropping and the impact on DD, so they said they needed to get her out "right now" but even that was very calm and measured and not scary.

You'll be absolutely fine. Good tip from a previous poster about taking a pillow for the journey home too, that was sore.

TooExtraImmatureCheddar · 30/07/2020 21:02

Not much to add, except that you might need to bear in mind that you might be delayed by emergencies, if you’re an elective. The first C section, I was actually sitting on the table bending forward for the spinal when there was a call to say that an emergency was coming in, so I was hustled out with a sheet wrapped round me! Then another one came in, so I waited about 3 hours before they were ready for me. That time they got the spinal in as quickly as possible so as to prevent any more emergencies taking over.

Tell the anaesthetist if you feel weird in any way - I started feeling breathless and it was because the anaesthetic was creeping too far up my body (I think!) so he had to dial it down slightly. He was very friendly and calm, but he did tell me to warn any future anaesthetists that that had happened!

TooExtraImmatureCheddar · 30/07/2020 21:04

Oh, and randomly, they’ll tell you not to wear nail varnish on fingers/toes so they can see the colour of your nail beds!

GirlCalledJames · 30/07/2020 21:08

I watched some YouTube videos of sections from the surgeon’s perspective before mine, it was really helpful for understanding what was going on (probably don’t do it if you’re squeamish though).
It’s very easy in the sense that there is always someone telling you what to do and all the people are following a routine they know well.
I had a very high risk preterm delivery and there was never anything but calm in the room (baby was fine).

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