For many women, labor can be an uncertain and fearful time. The large number of unknowns combined with unwavering hormones can certainly lead to apprehension. Amongst the concerns leading up to birth, women sometimes worry about having to deliver via an unplanned cesarean section (or c-section, as it is more commonly known). We teamed up with Catherine Purser, a Clinical Supervisor for Labor and Delivery at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, to discuss the c-section process and answer some commonly asked questions to help moms feel at ease if delivery leads to a c-section.
How should a woman prepare for a c-section even if she plans on a vaginal delivery?
“Until you are holding your baby in your arms, you cannot rule out having a c-section.” The ultimate goal is to have a healthy mom and baby and, sometimes, a c-section is necessary to ensure that. Just take labor one step at a time and be flexible to the situation, should it arise. “We do our best to provide the experience that you want, but if an unexpected c-section is necessary, our team at EIRMC is there to help and provide the safest care for you and your baby. Ultimately, we want this to all work out for the baby and you to be healthy and happy.”
What situations result in a c-section?
C-sections can happen suddenly or you may know a little in advance. Catherine made it clear that c-sections are not the optimal delivery method and below are some situations that can lead to them.
Situations you might be able to plan ahead for:
- Baby flipped and is now breeched
- High/severe blood pressure
- You have already had two or more uterine incisions
- Complications with the placenta such as the placenta blocking the baby from being delivered
Situations that may indicate a c-section is best while in labor:
- Mom is sick and labor puts mom at risk
- High/severe blood pressure
- Baby’s heart rate is dropping and is not tolerating labor
- You have been dilated at 5 cm for too long without progression
Only a small percentage of moms are rushed to the operating room. For the most part, when a c-section is needed, the doctor and nurse have time to educate you and you will be able to participate in the decision-making process. You will be given the opportunity to ask questions and feel comfortable about the decision.
What are the steps of a c-section?
- Mom will first need IV access for medications that will go into her forearm.
- Hospital staff will then shave the area to prevent any hair from getting stuck in tape or being in the way.
- The nurses will place Sequential Compression Devices on the lower half of mom’s legs. These devices inflate and deflate to gently squeeze the legs promoting circulation to help prevent blood clots.
- Mom will then generally receive two medications: one for nausea and the other an antacid to prevent heartburn while lying flat during the procedure.
- After this, mom will be moved to the operating room and onto the operating bed.
- If an epidural is in place and working well enough, staff can proceed with the c-section using the epidural as the numbing device. If mom has not received an epidural and there is time for it, a spinal will be placed. Spinals are similar to an epidural, but located in a different spot and will numb from the nipple line down. In an emergency situation where the baby needs to get out as fast as possible, an anesthesiologist may put mom to sleep.
- Next, staff will test to make sure mom is nice and numb before starting the incision. It can take less than ten minutes from incision to baby delivery depending on the situation.
- After the baby is delivered, it will take another 30-45 minutes to stitch the mother back up. During this time, the baby’s health is being monitored before he or she is brought back to rest on mom’s chest for bonding.
- After the surgery is complete, mom is taken to a recovery room where her nurse (that has been with her throughout the process) will continue to monitor her health. The recovery room is for bonding with the baby, making sure the spinal or epidural is wearing off, and monitoring mom’s bleeding and pain.
- If mom and baby continue to stay healthy, they are moved to a postpartum room within a few hours of birth.
In general, an uncomplicated c-section takes around one hour.
What should a mom know about a c-section?
The team at EIRMC wants to do everything possible to ensure mom has the kind of birth experience she envisioned. Mom should feel comfortable asking questions over and over again until she feels comfortable. Ultimately, the job of the nurses is to keep everyone safe and the best thing a mom can do is be flexible. A c-section may not be the birth experience a mom had in mind, but each birth experience is unique and beautiful.
“Our ultimate goal is for mom and baby to be healthy.”
Who is allowed into the room?
Only one support person unless it is an absolute emergency. “We want them to be there to support mom.” The only time they are not allowed to be in the room is if mom is going to sleep.
What should the support person know about the c-section?
“That mom is going to need some support and some help. It is a surgery, they are going to need some time to recover afterward. She is going to need lots of support while she recovers.”
What is expected of the support person?
There is a chair right by mom’s head for the support person where he/she can hold mom’s hand if desired. He/she is also welcome to stand and watch over the drape. Usually, the baby will stay in the room and be placed under the warmer where the support person can help. The baby is then handed to the support person to take over to mom for bonding time.
Despite how terrifying a c-section may seem, the hospital staff ultimately wants to ensure the safety and health of mom and baby. This is still your story no matter how the narrative has changed. Moms, you are strong and powerful no matter how your baby decides to enter this world. If you are a pregnant mom that is nervous about delivery, schedule a tour of Labor and Delivery by calling (208) 529-7135. It helped ease my mind and I felt more comfortable going into labor.
Catherine and the rest of EIRMC’s labor and delivery nurses want you to know:
“Moms and support persons should feel very empowered to plan the birth unique to them. Even if it doesn’t go according to your plan, it still makes it a wonderful, unique experience for you.”