You’ll be transported from the antenatal ward to theatre on a bed or trolley.
The area will be surrounded with sterile drapes to ensure you and your support person cannot view the procedure. Your pubic hair is shaved and the area cleansed. An antiseptic wash will then be painted onto your abdomen.
A catheter is passed into the bladder to keep it empty and an intravenous drip line will be set up into the back of your hand or arm. A blood pressure cuff on your arm, heart monitor on your chest and oxygen saturation probe on your finger will give continuous readings throughout the procedure.
You’ll usually have a small wedge pillow placed under your right side to slightly tip your uterus away from major blood vessels, thus ensuring optimal blood flow for you and your baby.
When anaesthesia is complete, an incision is made through the lower abdominal wall and the lower end of the uterus. Most incisions are horizontal, allowing the muscles in the uterus to safely stretch for future childbirth. Many women give birth through the birth canal after a previous caesarean section.
The baby’s head is delivered through the incision and the baby is lifted free of the uterus. Sometimes forceps are used if the head is tightly wedged in the pelvic cavity. The placenta is then removed and the wound stapled or stitched closed.
You’ll be transferred from the operating room to recovery where nurses will check your pulse, blood pressure, dressings, abdomen and urine output (if you have a catheter inserted). The observations continue every 10 minutes for a period of about half an hour. All being well, you’ll be taken back to the ward for the rest of your recovery.
You'll usually have an intravenous drip for the first 24 hours or so. This helps to replace any fluid lost in theatre, and keeps you hydrated until you’re able to eat and drink normally. You may also have a tube to drain fluid from the wound which will be removed after a day or so.
If you had an epidural this may be left in place to help with initial pain, or you may be offered injections of strong narcotic medication. If possible, you should discuss your pain relief options with your anaesthetist beforehand. You’ll need some extra help from staff and family to assist with caring for your baby until you’re feeling physically stronger, and it may be helpful to plan your strategies before the birth.
Your wound will usually be stitched with internal, dissolvable sutures so you should have a neat scar. The midwives will check your wound and apply a dressing if needed whilst in hospital, and will advise you of any care required after your discharge.
The length of your hospital stay will vary, but on average will be between 5-7 days. Once home, it’s important to get as much rest as you can for the first few days so, if at all possible, it’s a good idea to have the help of family or friends.
Some general self-care suggestions include:
- When you feel up to it, take a gentle walk every day
- Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation
- Try to avoid (or at least minimise) heavy lifting
- Try to remember your pelvic floor exercises
- Check with your doctor and your insurance company before driving a car within six weeks