Caesarean – what to expect?

written by Graham Hutchings, British gynaecologist who works in Delta hospital in Brussels. See for more about Graham and his practice.

This explanation is based on what you could expect if you have a caesarean birth at Delta hospital, but this is largely reflective of practices in other hospitals too.

If you have particular questions about how caesarean birth is carried out in the hospital you have chosen, please do ask your care provider.

The operation and the operating room

In general, you will be allowed one person (usually your partner) to be present in the operating room with you during the procedure. That person will sit at the head of the table next to you, out of the area in which the surgery will be performed.

Almost all C-sections are performed with you awake under spinal or epidural anaesthetic.

In this case you will hear people talking and feel pulling and pushing but you should not feel any pain.

The operation is performed two gynaecologists under sterile conditions. The baby, once delivered, is handed over to the midwife and usually your baby is placed skin-to-skin on your chest. Sewing up or ‘closing’ the procedure will take around 30 -40 minutes after the delivery is accomplished.

Usually the skin is closed with an absorbable skin stitch placed under the skin that does not need to be removed.

After the operation, you will be transferred to the adjacent recovery room where you will be monitored for the next hour.

During this time your baby will stay with you and your partner and you will be encouraged to try to feed your baby if you wish. There will also be a catheter that was placed in the bladder prior to surgery, which will continue to drain urine into a bag so that you do not need to get up to pass urine. This is removed the following day.

When the anesthesia wears off after the operation, there will be some pain in the abdomen but this decreases rapidly over the next few days.

Painkillers will be offered regularly by the midwives. You will be encouraged to cough, breathe deeply and move about in bed, getting out of bed as soon after surgery as is practical. This helps prevent lung problems such as pneumonia and early mobilisation decreases the risk of clots forming in the legs (deep venous thrombosis).

Eating and drinking

Clear liquids can be taken shortly after surgery and typically you will be eating and drinking freely within 24 hours of the delivery.

Under certain conditions, the activity of your intestines may be delayed a day or two before starting to work again. In this case it may be advised to recommence eating and drinking more slowly. It is not uncommon to also have gas pains in the lower abdomen as the bowels start to work once more.

Going home

Both in the hospital and the first few days after you go home, you may feel discomfort such that holding or feeding the baby may be more difficult that you would like.

Bonding with your baby as well as recovering from the cesarean delivery at the same time is more challenging than after a vaginal birth.

By the time you go home you should be able to increase your activities over the next week or two as you get stronger and more confident in your ability to walk up and down stairs, take longer walks, and provide for your baby.

Breastfeeding, if desired, is not affected by a cesarean delivery.