For the most part, the final stretch of pregnancy is spent asking the final down and dirty questions about labour and beyond. Discussions that include formerly un-speakable subjects: maxi-pads and stool softeners become common-place.

However, many women are clothed with very little information when it comes to a Cesarean section, especially if they go in to labour with the hopes of a vaginal delivery that results in an emergency. In fact, many feel judged as they head toward a C-section and perhaps that's why there's little conversation around it. 

We've all heard the expressions; 'Too posh to push', 'Well didn't you catch a lucky break', 'You didn't really give birth', 'There's always next time'; nothing like comments that make you feel like you suck.

Delivering a baby is no small effort and whether you experience the intensity of contraction after contraction, or endure all that comes with major abdominal surgery, it's all labour and all comes at a vast cost to the mother, despite one we welcome fully.

So, if you're experiencing judgement for the way you deliver: take hold! if your baby could high-five you she would, and maybe she will one day.

Recent reports by the National Institute of Health and Welfare found that approx. one in three women in Australia give birth by C-section, so, let's get up to speed.

And, if you're a mother that still feels a competition is in order, resist the temptation of betraying your tribe, as I can assure you there isn't one.

Cesareans - what you need to know:

1. A needle and a shave

If you're not into the 'Brazilian' or your private bits haven't had the luxury of IPL - get set for a complete shave - bald as a badger - not that you can see it for the moment anyway.

And the needle?  This will be for a blood test to check your iron levels.

2. Anaesthesia is administered

A spinal block (anaesthesia) will be administered by your anaesthesiologist. Your partner will not be present for this bit, he will join you once the anaesthesia is taking effect. 

Warn your partner that this process can take a while. My own husband said that he was jumping between the assumption that he had been forgotten, and having a full-blown nervous breakdown.

3. Finger pulse monitor

This is worn to keep track of mum's heart rate. Mum may also be given an oxygen mask - you are not about to make a crash-landing.

4. The smell of burning flesh

An aroma to behold and a memory you won't quickly forget. The incision is typically made by laser. Having your tummy cut open requires a great deal of composure. If you need a hand to squeeze or some re-assuring words, your midwife or doula is always there to help you. Don't be afraid to let them know they are needed.

5. Rummaging through top drawers

Although there's no pain at all, it truly does feel like someone searching through your top drawers, the strangest of sensations!

You typically won't be able to see anything, as there is a screen shielding your head from your body*. This screen is typically lowered at the point of birth, so mum can see her bub's first grimaces and hear her lusty cry.


The birth happens amazingly fast; from the first incision, birth occurs within about 5 minutes. Get your camera ready!

7. The moment of birth

Bring it on, birth of any kind is incredible. That first moment your little bundle is lifted up above that screen is the best. Like any birth, a Cesarean is both the most uplifting and un-doing thing you'll ever experience - you're in for such a treat.

8. Shortly after birth

Things vary a bit here, depending upon OB/surgeon, midwives and hospital provider.

Some will allow you to have skin to skin contact, but only under big warm blankets, because unlike a birthing suite, an operating theatre is REALLY cold. Keep her well covered, and your maternity providers might be happy enough for her to stay there for the duration of your stitching etc.

You may, however, just see your bub over the screen, and then she may disappear to the side of the operating theatre to be quickly assessed and wrapped. She may then be brought to you.

My first birth was by Caesarean, and I remember feeling my baby was almost too precious to touch.  blubber blubber...

Your placenta, of course, is removed at this time too, as well as a significant proportion of blood. This is one of the advantages of having a Cesarean; your postnatal bleed will be significantly lighter than that of a vaginal delivery.  Boom!

9. Repair work

A Caesarean scar can be stitched up using internal stitches which dissolve away. Depending on the size of the incision, staples and external stitches may be used too. This process takes approximately 45 minutes; a lot longer than the birth itself and you'll be in 'baby paradise', hopefully soaking up your gorgeous little thing.

10. First few days after birth

Your epidural takes a while to wear off so you can forget about independence for a while. Midwives will make sure you get anything you need. Always be comfortable to ask for help, especially during this time.

You'll spend an hour in the Recovery Ward - again, things vary a little bit here in terms of hospital and caregivers.

Benefits of bonding in the first hour of life are much more widely understood and practiced these days, so in many instances, a midwife will join a new mum in the Recovery Ward and help her with her first breastfeed. This is such a joy, as in other circumstances, mum and baby may be separated - the longest hour of a new mum's life. Talk to your maternity care provider about hospital protocols, so you're well prepped and understand what your options are.

I remember lying in Recovery Ward, talking to the nurses, hoping to display intelligence and quick wit, so I might be discharged sooner - little did I know that it was a significantly more clinical process.

NB.  If you and bub do experience separation during recovery, be sure that your partner gets their shirt off and snuggles up close to baby. My husband whisked his off and sang and prayed over our daughter before I was reunited with them in the maternity ward. My heart pangs thinking back on that.

11. First poop

Nothing's sacred. Get the stool softeners into you, drink LOADS, resist pushing, and you'll be fine. You'll feel magnificent when you eventually walk back out of the bathroom!

12. After hospital stay

OK ladies, this is where it gets particularly tough for the C-section deliverer.

Pain: You will be in a lot of it if you don't take pain relief.

Most midwives insert a rectal pain relief suppository before your spinal block wears off. Gross, totally, but you'll be utterly thankful. You're going to be in a significant amount of pain over the next few days. LucyLou hack: Take all pain meds allowed, you have nothing to prove!

Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding will be difficult (just for a short while). Simply lying baby across your lap to feed can be extremely uncomfortable. Use a good feeding pillow to lift bub up off your abdomen and this will make feeds more comfortable. These pillows double-up as a comfy bed companion, if your partner is sick of you (or you, them). Take up any comfort measures necessary.

Attending to a newborn in the middle of the night, once home, can be very taxing. Negotiate a bit of extra support through the nights with your partner. Perhaps they could bring the baby to you and settle her after a feed until you're ready and able again?

Lifting and driving:  You won't be doing any driving and there will be no lifting for a few weeks either. Anything heavier than bub is a no-no, so no lifting washing baskets and pegging clothes on the line - shame...

I've had both vaginally delivered babies and Cesarean birthed babies. Don't let anyone tell you that one is easier than the other. There is a labour to each, both of which you would do well to be prepared for, and let's face it, it's the outcome - your spectacular spawn(!) that matters.

Hugs into the ether...


* Varies dependent on hospital and maternity care provider