What to Expect with a C Section

Learn what to expect with a c-section as a first timer.

Whether or not you are having a planned C-Section it is always nice to prepare yourself for what to expect with a C section.

With about 32% of US babies being born via cesarean section, it’s not uncommon for women to go into childbirth hoping for a vaginal birth and having to have a C section for one reason or another.

Especially if you’re pregnant with twins!

With my twin pregnancy I developed complications which forced me to have a C section.

At that time, I had no idea what to expect with a C section and that is why I wanted to write this for you!

So let’s go through what happens when you have a C section, what to expect, do’s and don’t and so much more.

What Happens During a C Section?

In short, your baby is surgically removed from your abdomen rather than passing through the vaginal canal.

The actual procedure itself only lasts about 10 minutes to get the baby out then about another 30 to get you all put back together.

Whether the C section is planned or is considered an emergency, it follows much of the same process.

Prepping Mama

The whole process starts with preparing you and administering anesthesia. This can be done with either a spinal tap or epidural to make the lower half of you numb.

Honestly, this will probably be the most painful part of the entire procedure. You will remain completely awake during the process so you can greet your baby as soon as they make their entrance.

If necessary, the nurse will shave you up a bit and slather you with antiseptic solution (that fun orange stuff).

You will then get a catheter and a large blue drape will be placed in front of you.

Your partner will be geared up in surgical garb and then brought into the room when you are all ready to go. While most women opt to have their vision blocked with that lovely blue curtain, you can ask for a mirror or clear curtain to watch the whole thing.


Once you are all numbed up, it’s time for the doctor to make the first incision.

They will make the incision just above the pubic hair line. Thankfully they don’t slice you open from your belly button anymore!

They will then make an incision in your uterus to get to the baby. While you can’t feel anything, per say, you will feel a lot of pulling and tugging. It’s an odd feeling, but it doesn’t actually hurt.

Doctors are generally really great with performing C sections and will give you a play by play as to what is going on. Don’t be afraid to ask what is going on either, just because you can’t see doesn’t mean that you should be left in the dark.

Don’t be alarmed when you don’t hear baby cry immediately when they come out.

When having a vaginal birth all that extra mucus gets squeezed out of their respiratory tract, so it takes a tiny bit longer for the doctor to suction that all out before they can start crying.

Meeting Your Little Bundle of Joy!

After they get baby out and they get them wrapped up in a nice warm blanket, you will get to meet your little bundle of joy!

Oftentimes, moms are able to nurse baby while they are still on the operating table getting stitched up. If you aren’t able to nurse right away for whatever reason, you can do so pretty quickly after they wheel you into the recovery room. There will be plenty of time for you to bond with baby, C section or not.

As far as getting you put back together, once the doctor cuts the umbilical cord they will remove your placenta and do a quick check of your reproductive organs to make sure everything is healthy.

The doctor will stitch you up internally using absorbable stitches so they don’t have to be removed.

On your external incision they will either use stitches or surgical staples covered in steri strips.

The nurses will then be checking you on a regular basis over the next few days while you are in the hospital. They will monitor your bleeding, checking your uterus by pressing on it (this can be a rather painful experience, but is quick), and checking your vitals: blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen levels. You will also receive some pain medication to help control any postpartum pain.

What To Expect With a Planned C Section?

Just to clarify, a scheduled or planned C Section is NOT necessarily elective.

A planned C Section happens when you know in advance of going into labor that you are going to have a C Section. This could happen for a lot of different reasons:

  • Infections, such as HIV or herpes that could be transferred to the baby via vaginal delivery.
  • A large baby that would have difficulties passing through the birth canal.
  • Your weight, being overweight can lead to labor complications.
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or heart disease.
  • The health of your baby, if they are ill or have a congenital condition that might make a vaginal delivery risky.
  • Your age. Generally speaking, the older mama is, the greater chance of having a C Section.
  • A baby that is in a breech position.
  • Having a multiples pregnancy.
  • If you have had a C Section previously. A vaginal birth is possible after a C Section, however, the likelihood of having subsequent C Sections increases.
  • Problems with your placenta, such as placenta previa.
  • Other complications such as having preeclampsia, eclampsia, or not having enough fluid around the baby.

If you are having a planned C Section and you know enough in advance, you can create a birth plan around your delivery just like you would with a vaginal birth. While you might not have as much freedom as you would with a vaginal birth, you can still have a magical birthing experience with a C Section.

What To Expect With an Emergency C Section?

Things can go a little differently with an emergency C section.

They might not have time to do the spinal tap and may have to “put you to sleep,” so you don’t feel anything. While this is unfortunate and you don’t get to hear baby’s first cries, it is often better in a medical emergency.

For me, I ended up losing a lot of blood and after the procedure I was whisked away to recover without my twins. It was a hard thing but my husband was able to bond with the twins right away and in a short hour or so I was holding my babies.

How Painful Is It?

Take it from someone who has been through it, the actual process of the C Section is not that painful.

It is more the healing process afterwards. You have to be careful with how you move (more on that in a minute) so as to not rip any stitches and limit your activities. You can ask your doctor and try a natural pain reliever during this time.

During the recovery process, the nurse will have to press on your uterus to help it shrink back down and to get the remaining blood out, and to be honest that is probably the most painful part of the whole process.

The soreness and pain doesn’t really last more than a few days and you can easily manage it with rest and pain medication prescribed by the doctor.

The Dos and Don’t After a C Section?

There is no question that it takes longer to recover physically after a C Section than it does with a vaginal birth. Your hospital stay will be longer and it can also take longer to recover emotionally as well, especially if your C section was unplanned.

Healing at home can be longer too and it can take up to six weeks before you start to feel like yourself again.

So don’t rush it.

Other than pain at the incision site and having to take it easy with your movements so you don’t rip any stitches, you are dealing with much the same postpartum healing as if you had a vaginal delivery.

  • Fatigue
  • Uterine contractions
  • Breast engorgement
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Bleeding

Be cautious of your incision and make sure you are not lifting or resting anything on it.

With your partner’s help, older children’s help, or other friends and family, give yourself a break. Don’t just jump right back into household chores or spending your time in the kitchen preparing meals.

As women, we tend to feel guilty about letting the laundry or the dishes pile up.


You just had a major surgery and brought another human into this world. Sleep and rest when you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

As far as your incision, make sure that you are wearing loose and comfortable clothing – this fleece robe comes is a must after having your baby – and your underwear or pants aren’t rubbing on it. You have every reason to sport some granny panties for the next few months!

If you are having a lot of pain at the incision site, it smells weird (after you take off the steri strips) or it gets red or oozy, then see your doctor sooner than later.

Your doctor will likely prescribe something to manage your pain which should have no effect on you breastfeeding.

Make sure that you are eating healthy, whole foods and getting plenty of water.

This not only will help to keep your energy and milk levels up, it will also help to prevent constipation, which is a common post pregnancy complaint.

While having a C Section might not be your top delivery choice, it might be necessary.

Nearly one in three deliveries are performed via C Section with very little complications.

Give yourself peace of mind going into your delivery with confidence and the knowledge that you and your baby will thrive.

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