Whether you’re planning to have a C section for medical or personal reasons, the preparation process can be a little different than it is when waiting to go into labor. If you know you’re going to be delivering your baby via C section and are trying to nail down your plans, we’ve got answers to some of the most commonly asked questions on how to prepare for a C section.
How do I prepare for a planned cesarean section?
✅ Find out where you need to be
In my experience, the hospital I was delivering out of sent me a letter in the mail in advance of my C section letting me know where I needed to be and when. Because I had my prenatal appointments at the same hospital, I was familiar with the layout and knew where to park and where to go once I got inside. If this isn’t the case for you, it might be helpful to check out the hospital ahead of time so you aren’t going on a scavenger hunt when you arrive. You may also need to visit the hospital ahead of time to pre-register and pre-certify your birth with your insurance provider.
✅ Get a step
If you have a bed at home that sits pretty high, it might be a good idea to get a stool to put next to it so it’s easy to get in and out during your recovery.
✅ Meal prep
Make some freezer meals ahead of time, or put some takeout gift cards on your registry. The less time you have to spend in the kitchen while recovering from surgery, the happier you’ll be. This also goes for a vaginal birth, but it’s important enough to mention, so it’s on our list.
✅ Get some comfy high waisted pants
If you don’t have them already, buy loose-fitting underwear and pants/shorts with a waistband that can sit well above your C section scar.
Typically, your scar will be riiiight where the band of a pair of low-rise undies sits. Don’t put your maternity pants away yet either – they’re great to wear during recovery. Anything with heavy material, zippers or buttons will be pretty uncomfortable for a while, so your denim cutoffs will have to stay in the drawer a little longer.
Belly Bandit makes great post C section underwear and belly wraps to keep gentle pressure on your incision, and Nesting Days makes a great carrier that is amazing if you’ve had a c-section.
✅ Ask about stool softeners
The pain meds you’ll be taking after surgery are public enemy #2 (see what I did there?) making trips to the bathroom really damn difficult. Not everyone finds them helpful, though so ask your doctor what they recommend.
✅ Ask about painkillers
The hospital will likely send you home with a supply of painkillers, but just in case, talk to your doctor about what you can use and make sure you’re stocked up ahead of time. Some medical practitioners like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, (or both) but be sure to ask because they may recommend something else based on your medical history.
✅ Plan your help
If you don’t have a partner who can be home with you for the first little while postpartum, see if you can find a family member or friend to come stay with you or even check in daily. Your mobility won’t be great, and you’re gonna be tired. Having someone to help you ease into things can make a world of difference.
✅ Have a plan
Just because you’re having a C section doesn’t mean you can’t still create a birth plan. If you have specific wishes, like your plans for once the baby arrives, who’s allowed to visit, or if you’d like delayed cord clamping, it’s not a bad idea to write up a birth plan ahead of time when you prepare for a C section. Just remember – things can change in the moment, and it’s okay if everything doesn’t go according to plan.
✅ Arrange for kiddo and pet care
Just like with any other birth, if you’ve got kids or pets at home who will need someone to care for them during your C section, make those arrangements ahead of time. The great thing about having a scheduled section is you’ll be able to provide an accurate date and won’t have to call anyone in the middle of the night!
What should I do the night before my C-section?
✅ Know your appointment time
Your hospital may call you the night before to remind you of your scheduled appointment time. They may even give you the option to book an earlier time if the hospital isn’t busy.
✅ Don’t eat
One thing you can’t do is eat after a certain time, so make sure you know when that is and don’t sneak any treats afterward! Seriously – not even juice. You’re having surgery and having something in your stomach is a no go.
✅ Skip shaving
Oh, and another don’t when you prepare for a C section – step away from the razor and leave your lady bits alone. No one cares if you’ve got a little hair down there and shaving within 24 hours of your surgery could increase the risk of a surgical site infection.
✅ Sleep if you can
Get a good night’s sleep (if you can!) I know this is often easier said than done when you're pregnant and about to have surgery but being well rested is a good idea so skip the last minute prep if you can.
✅ Take a shower
Take a shower the night before or the morning of. It might be a little while before you can sneak in a post-op shower, so you’ll be glad you did.
✅ Pack your bag
Make sure you’ve got a hospital bag packed with pajamas, comfy clothes, toiletries, and everything you’ll need for the baby. Check out our list of specific things you might want to pack in our Hospital Bag Checklist.
What should I wear?
When you leave for the hospital, just wear something comfortable. You’ll be changing into a hospital gown and some of those very sexy gauze undies that can fit the world’s largest maxi pad prior to surgery, as well as after.
You’ll have a catheter inserted for the surgery, and it won’t be removed until about 12 hours after you’re done, so you can either keep your gown on or switch to a nightgown of your own. Oh, and don’t worry – the catheter removal feels a little weird, but it doesn’t hurt.
If you want to wear something that’s two pieces once the catheter is out, make sure your bottoms are nice and loose and sit above your scar (as mentioned above).
A maternity bra and a top with easy access for breastfeeding will be your best friend. A pair of slides (so you can wear them with socks or in the shower) and a robe are also nice to have along for the ride since you could be in the hospital anywhere from 2 to 4 days, depending on your hospital’s policy and how your recovery is going.
How long does a cesarean take?
Something that’s worth keeping in mind is that if you are scheduled to have a C section, any emergency C sections that come up while you’re waiting to go into the operating theatre will take priority over yours.
Speaking from experience, I was scheduled for a 7:30 a.m. surgery and didn’t end up delivering my daughter until 3 in the afternoon because I was repeatedly bumped by other surgeries.
If you haven’t already met with an anesthesiologist, they’ll come check in with you prior to surgery. Once it’s baby time, you’ll enter the operating theatre. If you are allowed to have someone come with you for support, this is when they’ll get to have their Grey’s Anatomy moment and scrub in.
You’ll get your epidural or spinal block (I was worried about this part, but it went by very quickly and was relatively painless). After this, you’ll be hooked up to IV lines and have a catheter inserted.
Typically, a big ol’ blue sheet will be hung to block the surgery from your view, as you’ll be awake in most cases. Some hospitals have started offering a clear sheet to provide mamas with a bird’s eye view of what’s happening, so if this is of interest to you, make sure to ask beforehand.
In 30-45 minutes, you’ll be meeting your baby!
Here’s a cool video that shows you (in a non-gross way) how a c section goes down.
Once the baby arrives, under most circumstances, you’ll be able to have skin-to-skin contact right away. It’s very normal to start shaking after you give birth (whether vaginally or via C section). It's most likely due to a surge in adrenaline, so don’t freak out. You and your baby will be taken to a recovery ward for a few hours, before being moved into the postnatal ward.
And that’s it – the hard part is over! Just kidding, you’re a parent now! Welcome to the club – we’re so glad you’re here.
Do you have any hot tips to prepare for a C section that we missed?
How did you prepare for a C section? Make sure to drop ‘em in the comments.
Our next reco: Ten Things You Should Know About Having a C-Section