15 Helpful Tips For A Cesarean Birth

The cesarean rate in our country (and many others) is undoubtedly too high. Normalizing birth, talking about women’s choices, sharing stories and educating ourselves will help reduce the amount of surgical births.

With that said, there are times when a cesarean section is necessary to save the mother and/or baby’s life. This is when obstetrics is a blessing. When a mother finds herself needing a cesarean section, especially when not planning one, she may be scared and not know what to expect. Cesarean sections, even when necessary, are major surgery. It is what it is.

The cesarean birth experience does not always have to be traumatic. There are things a woman and her family can do to prepare for ahead of time or they can do after the surgery, even if it was not previously prepared for. Here are some tips and information on what will help a mother and her baby heal and bond after a c-section.

  1.  Wait until as close to ‘due date‘ as possible or until your body starts very early labor.
  2. Have meals prepared and frozen or meals brought in by family or church members.
  3. Buy and use a belly band for your incision.
  4. Talk to your doctor about what kind of incision they are doing. Horizontal is best if possible.
  5. Talk to your doctor about what kind of suturing they will do (double layer is usually wanted for a VBAC).
  6. Be adamant about one arm being unrestrained so you can touch your baby after s(he) is born.
  7. As long as baby is healthy, ask for skin to skin and breastfeeding immediately after surgery!
  8. Get up and move around as soon as possible. It’s hard, but you can do it with support.
  9. Do not overdo it. This can lead to complications. Rest, nurse and bond with your baby.
  10. Take your pain medicine at first to preempt the pain and wean yourself off as you can. Also, talk to your doctor about different pain med options.
  11. Wearing a sanitary pad across your incision will help your clothes from rubbing against it.
  12. Eat foods that soften your bowels and keep you regular (stool softener if needed).
  13. Careful when sneezing, laughing and coughing.
  14. Do NOT feel like a failure. You are a mother and just created a beautiful life!
  15. Watch this video of a ‘natural’ cesarean. Meaning there are things you can do to make the experience as family centered as possible! Talk about this with your doctor!



    • ashley

      This is a great idea… however, usually anesthesia needs access to the patient’s back to place a spinal for surgery (general anesthesia is not recommended unless absolute emergency due to the effects the medication has on the baby). The gown can be flipped around after the C/S but unlikely before it is completed. Great idea for after or make sure you have a gown that fully opens in the front.

  • Cassandra

    I was robbed of every detail in this video, it has scarred me so much that i can not bond with my son and he is about to turn 3. I am really glad that this type of treatment is possible should i ever need a c-section again, however i really hope for a VBAC!

    • G

      I hope you’re seeking professional help to learn how to bond with your son. The birth is an important part of the bonding but it’s not the end all be all. Look at adoptive parents who bond with their children. They manage to do it despite having nothing to do with the birth or initial care. The fact that you haven’t bonded with your three year old is serious and should be something that you seek outside assistance for. Best of luck to you and your son.

    • Lucie

      Cassandra, There is a process called Holistic Pelvic Care. http://www.awomanstime.com/?page_id=1793 It has helped me tremendously. Had one session when my daughter was 5.5 months old. I felt like she was born the day of the session. Very powerful. Best of luck, you’ll find the bond you wish to have… and since this was posted 5 years ago I hope you’ll look at my message and wonder you ever felt that way. Take care

  • Krystle

    These are great tips. I had an unwanted c-section with my first son (after a series of unnecessary interventions) and I asked to have neither of my hands tied down, and they allowed it, which I thought was kind, seeing as I was shaking so much from terror! In January I’m hopefully having a VBAC, your website is so inspiring!

    • Cat

      I had my midwives with me the entire time I was in labor and during my emergency cesarean at 27 weeks. They were fantastic. I’m now pregnant again and planning a VBAC – again with midwives (although I consult with MFM to help prevent preterm labor and so on). Having them there was such a relief to me in such a traumatic situation, and they were SO wonderful in helping me recover – both physically and emotionally. I would *NEVER* go through a pregnancy and birth without my midwife there, knowing how wonderful their support is 😀

  • Scarlet

    Thank you for this. I have some concerns about my son being breech (hopefully he will flip properly in 2 weeks when I hit my 32 week mark and stay that way). I’m planning a homebirth whereas my first birth was a hospital induction with an epidural. Your website has been a great help for educating myself to homebirth and birthing without fear in general. Thank you for that. You have helped so many moms and I don’t think you get enough appreciation from it. <3

  • Amy

    How about know what they are using to put you under if the spinal doesn’t work and possible side effects. Ketamine was used on me and I was not even told or I would have refused! Such a horrible thing they did to me and I ended up with PTSD from the trauma.

    • Crystal Alan

      It looks like it was a boy so if they wanted to do a circumcision, they would have given a vitamin K shot. It’s necessary for blood clotting since it takes about a week after birth for the baby to naturally produce it (vit. K is what hemophiliacs lack). That’s one possibility.

  • Roadfamily6now

    You also might want to consider having a “Doula” present in the room. For some mom’s, they take the baby and dad follows to the nursery leaving mom alone. It’s ideal to have someone there for mom during the stitch up phase of the operation. Someone to hold mom’s hand and just be there. The staff will undoubtedly be unconcerned about mom and continue with mindless chitchat.

    • Jessica

      Luckily this was not the case at all with my second cesarean. The staff was wonderful, especially the anesthesiogist. My doula didn’t show up for the birth, so Dr. Fisher stepped in and filled that role beautifully.

  • Heather

    This was so beautiful….until about 6:43, why are they sticking the baby so sad 🙁 The rest of this was absolutely wonderful. WHEN a c-section if necessary-this is the way is should be done!

  • Jane Pearson

    I am the mother of 4 C-Section Babies. Two boys, 2 girls. The first one in 1969. I was never given the option for a vaginal birth in the years 1972, 74, and 77. My experiences were all pretty good but I still remember the pain after and I wished I had been able to hold the babies sooner than I was able to. I am now Nana to 8. My reason for the sections was pelvic disproportionment. I am grateful my OB/GYN was knowledgeable enough to know I would be unable to deliver safely.

  • Ashley B

    I am 37 weeks and dealing with a breech baby. When it comes to birth, I was wanting and expecting that wonderful moment when my daughter comes into the world, my husband catching her and her being put on my chest for immediate bonding and loving. I wanted to have a natural birth at the local birth center with all my friends and family surrounding me. All that was turned upside down yesterday when I found that my daughter’s head is up under my ribs. I have a consultation on Friday to schedule my c-section. I just have to say that I can’t help but feel like it’s completely my fault that she’s breech. I have had such negative stress, worrying about her, worrying about finances, worrying about family issues when I should have tried harder to relax. Thank you for this helpful information about cesarean births – I am feeling a little more confident and I will bring this list with me to discuss my options with the doctor.

    • AInsley

      Ashley, I have heard of babies who spin to the correct way during labour even, is it possible for you to go into labour naturally and then go to a c-section only if it is absolutely necessary?

      Good luck whatever happens xx

    • ashley

      I know it is hard but you should not be so hard on yourself… it is unlikely that you did anything to cause you baby to be breech. You should also discuss the options of having a version with your doctor. I see lots of successful versions at the hospital that I work at… if it doesn’t work, you can have a beautiful C/S experience. I had an emergency C/S with my daughter and she is a great breastfeeder and I can’t imagine any way I could be more bonded with her. I did ask to do skin to skin with her after birth in the OR and since baby was fine when she came out they let us do skin to skin.

    • Lorena

      Have you heard of the Webster technique? My second baby was transverse footling at 37 weeks; I found a chiropractor who did the Webster technique on me and baby flipped the next week and I had a natural birth at almost 42 weeks. I highly recommend it, it has worked for a number of mamas I know.
      I was also rather stressed during that pregnancy, I wonder if that had anything to do with it? Hmmm….

  • Nicole

    My first 2 kids were c section. I dont feel I bonded very well with my oldest due to it being emergency c section and I was in so much pain afterwards and my second I think I bonded only because I was able to breastfeed. 2nd C section was horrible but recovery was easier due to I knew what to expect this time around… Plan on vbac this time and breastfeeding no matter what….

  • Jessica

    This was a beautiful video and Pandora’s experience was very similar to my second cesarean. I would like to add that, even if you aren’t planning to VBAC in the future that you request a double layer closure as there is evidence that the uterus heals better. That was important to me since I plan to have at least one to two more children (I have two now).

  • Melinda

    Thank you for this! I’m due next week and have had such guilt over needing another c-section. We are still looking a bit at VBAC but my hospital doesn’t allow them if the baby is a frank breach and my little one is. My son was as well. In fact his head was wedged and we didn’t know until they actually went in. They can’t tell if hers is, but we’re waiting to see. The uterus is heart shaped, bicornuate and it’s not conducive to a baby “dropping.” One high risk doctor I am working with is completely against me attempting a VBAC. That sounds harsh, but he’s genuinely concerned. Another said we could try if she turns, but he doesn’t think she can. Any way, this was just so helpful to read when I am often bombarded with hurtful words to the effect of “taking the easy way out.” And I will say anyone that thinks visiting multiple doctors on a weekly bases, facing down a surgery with babies at home, going through a somewhat degrading process of the surgery, and then recovery that is lengthy and burdensome on loved ones and children, has not experienced a c-section or they have issues of their own. Thank you again!!!

    • Breanna

      I’m always blown away at people calling sections the easy way out. My sister had 2 sections and the recovery process is tiresome even just to watch. I told her that after seeing her go through the weeks of pain/medications/etc of recovery (plus she had a reaction to the tape they put over the incision) I can’t see how anyone could call that “easy”…sure you don’t have to go through labor necessarily and you don’t push an all that, but easy? NO WAY!

      I wish you best of luck with your birth, I’m sure how ever it works out is the way it should be. Congratulations in advance for the birth of your daughter.

  • Morgaine

    Melinda, anyone who says that a csection is the easy way out has obviously never had one. I cannot think of a single way to birth that is “easy”. Some more tolerable than others, perhaps, but never easy.

    To me, you are making a beautiful sacrifice. You are allowing yourself to be cut open while awake so that your child can be born. And trust me, you will still get that amazing burst of oxytocin.

    Knowing what I know these days, I will push much, MUCH harder for a more natural birth next time. Nonetheless, I was still blessed with a happy, healthy son, and he still came out of me.

  • Danielle

    I wanted to add something very important to the tips here. Many, many women fail to breastfeed after a caesarian because of blood loss, the body will not start to make milk until it has made up sufficient blood volume. My hospital bought me a very small amount to drink and while I was bedridden I didn’t think about getting up to drink more until my family members noted that my catheter bag was terribly dark yellow and I needed to drink a lot more. If they hadn’t noticed and I hadn’t immediately upped the water intake my milk would probably have failed to come in (it came 5 days after delivery, very late).

    Please remind women having caesarians or those who have high blood loss in normal deliver to DRINK, DRINK, DRINK. I’m sure this is one of the main reasons so many caesar mothers fail to get milk.

  • jen

    Request mother baby non seperation my twins were a c-section and thankfully born 39/4 and were placed on me to nurse with the assistance of a midwife and dr. team. They never left me,my babies rested on me being wheeled back to recovery. I feel so blessed!!They are 12 weeks old and I still feel like I’m enjoying a Baby Moon because of this.Researching your options and building a team relationship is so very important!!!!!!

  • christie

    My C section wasnt this natural but pretty close, i was very happy with it, this time around if a VBAC isnt to be i have written a new birth plan to incorporate c section including delayed clamping and skin to skin immediately. as it was they never took baby away i could see him the whole time and my husband held him beside me cut the cord etc and i held him once i went into recovery, they didnt weigh and measure him till we were back in our room then we breastfed within the first hour, i did have some trouble bonding in the beginning and id like to avoid that if possible thankfully the ob ive spoken to about it (she was my anesthetist when my son was born) has been supportive of everything we’ve discussed and we are hoping it wont come into play and i will have a successful VBAC, they are a baby friendly hospital its just a matter of moving into the theater. i wish everyone could have the positive experience i did

  • christie

    (extra) i often tell people what i remember most about my cesarean is the doctors telling me off for laughing at their jokes while they were stitching 🙂

  • amy

    This is great!..However, no sanitary pads are needed anymore. (See #11) – My mother sent me CesareanWear underwear called Czela Bellies and they were my lifesaver! #6 would have been nice – didn’t know you could ask to not be totally restrained.

  • Elisabeth

    I was a 1st time homebirth turned c-section. My c-section was great. Education is key. Even if you are having a home birth so you know the stats are on your side not to end up with one, it can happen, and it can be wonderful! I saw my baby right after she came out and they made sure she was breathing OK. I’ll never forget that first look at her beautiful naked body covered in everything birth, her sweet face forever etched in my mind. They brought her back to me again after cleaning her up (but not washing her as per our request) while they stitched me. She had been crying, but soon as we had our faces together, she stopped. It was amazing. They took her after that for weighing and for “shots” (my husband was there declining all of them, good man) and I had her again as soon as I arrived in my recovery room for nursing. It wasn;t perfect…the nurses threatened us when we took of her gazillion blankets for skin to skin that she would get too cold and they would have to take her to the nursery, for instance…but being educated I was not afraid to hold her to my body anyway and of course she stayed toasty warm. I am so glad for this post, I hope it helps some of you women out there who don’t think this is an important aspect to consider when learning about birth!

  • Kristen

    I had the most positive cesarean birth I could imagine. I never asked for anything. They did not bind my arms and my baby was in my arms and at my breast in less than an hour. The nurse even took pictures of the birth for us so that my husband could hold my hand and watch the birth. They did have to take her to check her vitals right away, but my husband was with her the whole time. I had watched this video and create a birth plan as a backup plan. I had an emergency cesarean as a result of chin presentation. I did not need the birth plan. My doctor was amazing as was the hospital staff. I was terrified at first, but this birth was by far more peaceful than my son’s vaginal birth. I am scarred from that more than I could ever be from this one. Thanks for this article and video.

  • Bevin

    Thank you so much for posting this video. I will have to have a planned C-section for my next pregnancy and had no idea these kinds of things were possible. Coming from the view of only a traumatic c-section experience before, you have no idea how much better I feel now.

  • Lea

    It has taken me 13 months to come to terms with my csection. Pages like this help reassure me that I did the best I could. he was malpositioned so I labored for a long time and in the end had to have a csection because he just wasn’t decending. It wasn’t an ’emergency’ it was just about getting him out since the labor was coming on 3 days and I was literally falling asleep between contractions. he wasn’t fitting in my pelvis and his head was starting to swell. I had one arm free, they didn’t give me the spinal until the very last minute so as little drugs as possible got to him. They brought him to me quickly. I didn’t do skin to skin, I was so exhausted and upset that I just wasn’t thinking straight. They brought him to me and it was amazing how he’d been screaming but as soon as he heard me he stopped. We have it on video, his little eyes are searching for me..I got to talk to him for a bit and kiss him. he had an almost perfect APGAR score, and needed nothing more than checking of vitals, he was perfect. The closing up took a bit longer than usual apparently they were concerned with my bladder and had to run some blue fluid through it. His head was smashing it most of my labor(2+days). I also didn’t get to hold him for about 2 hours because the birthing floor was swamped and they didn’t have any postpartum rooms available. So they put us back in the room I’d been laboring in for 16 hours. My midwife stayed with me while they stitched me up which was nice and my boyfriend was with the baby while they washed him up. I remember being on the table, watching them walk away yelling…remind them NO PACIS, NO BOTTLES!! I just turned my focus on breastfeeding. When they brought us to the room it was late at night so no LC came by. Thankfully I knew the basics and THANK GOD he latched immediately. That moment made everything so worth it! I don’t know what I would’ve done had we had nursing problems. So I think that while we had a delay in being together, once we were together, it was skin to skin, lots of nursing. I remember I didn’t sleep all night. I just stared at him all night. I’m still not 100% ‘over it’..but I am grateful that I had enough knowledge to remain in some control. While I didn’t do everything-immediate BF, etc..I still have a iron bond with my son, and had a relatively easy recovery. I only took a couple of Tylenol 3’s after, no vicodin or anything like that. I got up and around as soon as I could..but did take it easy at home. I only focused on nursing, even when my nipples were ON FIRE that first month, I kept going. I think my CS made me even more determined to make it work. So I guess I am grateful. No housework, no cooking, baby was all that mattered. I didn’t even take walks until the 6 wk mark.i didn’t want recovery taking one second more than it needed to. They did tell me a vaginal delivery will be possible should I decide to try again. I don’t think I’ll have another child, but if so you can bet I would try my darnest to deliver vaginally. My birthing coach said it best…I had a NATURAL labor, just not a NATURAL birth…and that is OK. I am glad I got to labor for as long as I did to give my kiddo time to be ready for the world. It’s important for us to educate ourselves on csections. I was so gung-ho it wasn’t going to happen that I didn’t know what to expect when it did. I didn’t know I could’ve had skin to skin immediately or asked to bf in the room, etc.

    • Mrs. BWF

      I think it’s better than going to sleep and waking up and not remembering a dang thing or the birth of your child. Having done it twice, it was scary, but not a nightmare.

    • Daleth

      It’s painless, thanks to the epidural (or spinal block), and you can’t see them doing it because of the drape. I would WAY prefer that, and being able to see my baby right away, than being knocked out.

  • Kathleen Neely

    My first C section was frightening because it was an emergency. My second was just like this, perfect!! my midwife was with me and I had very little pain. The baby was however born with Wet lungs?? whatever that is, he was in NICU for a week, But after that he came home and everthing was fabulous!! I really bonded with him and we have always been very close, now he is 18, and Im patiently waiting to be a grandmum… LOL Ps my firstborn son refuses to let his wife have a vaginal birth he insists on his children being C sections Funny <<3

  • ReidTheWonderWombWoman

    For healing of the womb after a c-section I highly recommend Maya Abdominal Therapy. Scar adhesions from abdominal surgery can create lack of flow- of nerve, blood, lymph, and energy, setting you up for both short and long term health challenges ranging from secondary infertility, painful periods, and even cancer down the road.

    MAT is an empowering tool that helps many women prepare for a successful Vaginal and/or Natural Birth as well as the elusive VBAC. Very often the work can offer a preventable measure for avoiding the c-section in the first place- as evidenced by preliminary findings with midwives who include Maya Abdominal Therapy in their practices.

    When the womb is mal-positioned or tilted both the baby and the mother have to work longer and harder during birth. And, as we all know, there is a ‘watching of the clock’ effort in Western obstetrics that can’t often be avoided. Having the womb healthy and well-positioned can make all the difference in the world!

  • Amanda

    I had a surgery in February for a fibroid removal and was told that any future deliveries will have to be sections. I’ve lost the chance for natural childbirth, but I have high hopes that a necessary section doesn’t have to be a traumatic one. This delivery is lovely. Thank you so much for this post!

  • Krisitna

    I am a hospital Labor and Delivery RN who experienced CSection with the birth of my third, (VBAC for #4). For me the CSection recovery was easier than the recovery for my first Vaginal Delivery, but I know that is not the case for everyone. At our hospital, we offer the baby to be placed skin to skin minutes after delivery. It is possible, you just need to change the general idea of how CSections should take place. Not easy to do, but possible. If we don’t have the baby skin to skin within a certain time frame we need to document WHY that DIDN’T take place. I love it!

  • Tammy

    I just had my 6th c-section January 16. This video had me in tears! My oldest was born in the US and the other 5 in Canada. There was definitely a difference in the two countries but my oldest did just turn 14 😉 Here they don’t do the drape hanging, they just have them laying over my chest so my husbadn can watch any of it he wants. He doesn’t usually do that much but here and there 😉
    My dr for my last 3 has been wonderful. But I don’t ever get to have skin to skin contact or nurse my baby in the OR. My husband leaves me(not really willingly) to go with our baby. In a way this is good, it gives him some bonding time with our baby but I am very jealous of this. I have had a wonderful anesthesiologist for a few of my surgeries, with my 3rd I had spinal headaches and am now always terrified of it happening again. That time I had to have an epidural blood patch and never want to go through all of it again. The dr is always wonderful and tries to help me through my fears. He even went around taking tons of pictures this last time. I have to say my last delivery was probably the best of all. My dr took his time(for fear of issues inside after so many) and they actually let me hold my little boy. Normally I would only get a minute or two while my husband held them but they put him in my arm and my husband helped me. I was able to talk to my sweet baby and calm him down. It was truly and experience I have never had before. My baby was crying a lot from birth and when he was in my arm he was still crying but when I talked to him, he stopped. He knew me and my voice and I can’t explain how it made me feel. Having c-sections is not how I ever thought my babies would get here and I wish it was different. I wish I could experience a vaginal birth but this is just how it has to be and I have 6 amazing children. Thank you for the video and for helping those who haven’t gone through it see what c-section mothers experience.

  • Megan A

    I had a c/s roughly 4 months ago that was elective (sort of). I was scheduled to have my c/s 2 says after my son was born. I went into labor naturally. My water broke first, and my contractions started about 10-15 minutes later. I labored at home for about 2 hours before going to the hospital. I labored at the hospital an additional 3.5 hours before having the c/s. My labor progressed fairly quickly, and I had no medication until I was in the OR (6cm dilated). I chose to have a c/s due to issues with vaginal tearing (not fearing tears– actual tears that I have that reopen with any stress.) I had a wonderful c/s experience. I was able to hold my son in the OR and breastfeed him in recovery. I truly needed no pain medication after the surgery, and was allowed to get up once I could feel my legs again. My recovery was actually much easier than many of my friends/family’s vaginal deliveries. So much easier that one of them has decided she wants a c/s for her next baby. I felt that there were no issues with bonding or not having things my way. I was able to do exactly what I wanted for my birth, and my son was/is perfectly healthy. I walked out of the hospital. I was having to remind myself at home that I had just had surgery so as not to overdo it. I have no regrets about choosing a c/s. It allowed me the birth exeperience my family wanted. I am glad to see positive things about c/s. It is a major surgery, but it can be an easy option. I know mine was a very easy delivery and recovery.

  • Bailey

    It looks like I’ll be facing a c-section in the next several weeks. I’m extremely heartbroken and disappointed, but seeing this makes me feel a little better. Thank you for sharing this post/video.

  • bonnie

    I hate that every article about cesareans includes “don’t feel like a failure” and statements that imply it must have been traumatic, awful, a let down, disappointing, etc. I am sorry that women have to feel that way about their BIRTH, it is your birth, plain and simple. There is nothing to feel like a failure about and it’s a shame that there is always that stigma associated with having a cesarean birth. I had a cesarean with my first, that’s what the situation called for, it’s what I felt was right for me and baby, etc. and I never once considered myself a failure or any less than a woman who had a vaginal birth. I do not regret what happened to me. It was not traumatic, in fact, my cesarean was awesome. The midwives were wonderful, the surgeon was amazing, the nurses were delightful, my hospital stay was a pleasure (which is what I think is most important, having a great team of midwives and doctors and nurses around). I intended for a natural birth in water at my birth center but that didn’t happen. I got negative thoughts into my head about cesareans only from reading all of my natural birth blogs,forums,etc. I just don’t want women to be afraid or feel like a failure for having a cesarean. That is ridiculous. You do not have to. I think there should be less cesarean shaming. Please, do not feel bad about your birth. If you and baby are healthy and okay- that is all that matters. Feel good about what is happening. Just because it might be in a way you didn’t plan- pregnancy and birth is a big who knows what will happen- it doesn’t mean you should feel like you are not “equal” to a vaginal birth, or a natural birth, or whatever. This was YOUR birth, this is YOUR birth, no one and nothing can take that away from you or make it any less special and don’t let anyone or any negative comments or stigmas make you feel that way.

  • Tracey

    Thank you for this great article. I may have to a c section for my 2nd baby’s birth and am gathering information on it. I had a VBAC birth with my first, took a day and a half of being induced every which way, and I found it very tramatic. I had to be cut and a vacuumed used to get my son out. I didn’t bond with him for about two months. But I was a first time mom, so lack of sleep and everything to learn was also a lot to take on.

    Either way whatever method my second is born with, I plan to be educated and just open to the experience. We are blessed to have children.

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