CESAREAN AWARENESS MONTH
"A good mother isn't defined by the process of labor or if she breastfed or not. A good mother is defined by the sacrifices and love she gives her children."
As April is Cesarean Awareness Month, I wanted to do a post about cesareans and some of the things that may come along with them. I did a poll on my Instagram story about what you wanted to learn about and the winning topics were: 1) Cesarean Recovery and 2) Things to Request. Another topic that was a close tie to things to request was cesareans and nursing, so I'll do a bit of a blurb on that as well.
First off though, I want to say this. To all mothers everywhere, regardless of the way you birthed your baby you are incredible. You should feel strong, mighty and powerful. Birthing a baby is the most intense time and having a cesarean birth does not make you any less of a mother. Whether it be an emergency cesarean, a scheduled cesarean, or a cesarean due to complications/past trauma/you name it, you still bravely birthed your baby, and for that, you are incredible.
CESAREAN SECTION INFORMATION
1) BC is currently the highest ranking province in Canada for number of cesarean sections performed. (This is kind of scary really, and while cesarean sections are a medically life saving intervention for both mother and child, we should always be striving to provide mothers/families/babies with the least invasive and safest option for birth, and that doesn't always mean that a cesarean is either of those, more often then not a vaginal birth is the safest option; however, we are incredibly lucky and thankful to have cesarean sections as an option for mothers and infants). Working to provide women and families with evidenced based information allows them to make informed decisions about their healthcare, bringing back the choice and control of the birth to the mother (in most cases).
2) Cesarean sections have been performed since the Ancient Roman times. (I can only assume we've come along way since then!)
3) Just because you've had a cesarean section before, doesn't mean you will need to have another one.
4) A lot of moms who've had a cesarean section tell me they've been told they "took the easy way out" but in reality, recovery after a cesarean can be much more difficult emotionally and physically then a vaginal birth... easy way out? I think not. Both vaginal and cesarean births are difficult, intense, challenging physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally in their own way.
5) A Doula can 100% still support you during a cesarean birth and may be even more helpful during the postpartum period!
There's some fun facts for ya. Now, we'll move onto some of the main topics.
When a woman undergoes a cesarean section, she undergoes a major surgery. I guess because we hear of cesarean sections happening so often, we've become jaded to the fact that it is a major surgery, therefore the recovery will be major as well.
*Disclaimer* I am NOT a medical professional, please do not take these things as medical advice. Be sure to always check with your Midwife or Doctor after any medical procedure and for any medical advice.
So, on the topic of cesarean recovery.. what are some things we should know?
First off, it is a major abdominal surgery; therefore, the healing process will take a fair amount of time. Give yourself at least six weeks for your body to recovery. This means that you need to:
1) Take it easy. Give your body rest! Have someone (family, doula, partner, friend) come over to assist you with daily housekeeping tasks and making meals. You need to ensure you are not overdoing it.
2) Eat a nutritious diet and stay hydrated. Lots of soups, greens, water, etc.
3) Seek pain relief. Heating pad, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, etc. Your doctor or midwife will prescribe appropriate pain medication for incision soreness. Be sure to take this properly and as advised. (Most pain relief medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, but always be sure to check with your doctor/midwife first).
4) Experiment with different breastfeeding positions. This is something a lot of new moms may not think about. The most common breastfeeding position we see taught in hospitals is the cradle hold. This position can be actually really uncomfortable for nursing mothers who underwent a cesarean section. Some positions I like to recommend to my clients are laid back position, football hold, and side lying position. Using a nursing pillow to support baby in the cradle/cross cradle position may help as well if you are finding the other positions do not work for you and your baby(s).
5) As always, look for signs of infection. Redness, swelling, discharge, etc.
6) Women who undergo a cesarean section will still experience lochia (afterbirth vaginal bleeding/discharge) as well as uterine contractions. These contractions can be more painful during breastfeeding, so having a warm heating pad and drinking lots of water may help to minimize this pain. It's important to make sure that you are looking after your body and watching for signs of postpartum depression (our mental wellbeing is just as important as our physical wellbeing!)
Overall, the recovery of a cesarean section can be really intense for some people. Be kind to yourself, and remember that you've just undergone a major surgery let alone having to adjust to new motherhood. You're amazing, and you deserve to ask for help. So, if you need it, ask for it. Hire a doula, ask your mom, grandma, sister, friend, aunt, you name it over (because who doesn't want to come over to have a look at that beautiful baby and maybe sneak some snuggles in). Talk with your partner if you need more support from them. Make a basket of snacks for yourself to have near your favourite spot to sit in. Find some good shows and movies to watch and make yourself comfortable. The most important thing is to let yourself rest and heal.
WHAT TO REQUEST
So, sometimes if you have a planned cesarean you can be a bit more prepared and plan some things out. Other times, you may have to make decisions on the spot. Regardless of the situation, there are a few things you can request for you and your baby if you're having a cesarean.
1) Immediate skin to skin. In the event of an emergency this may not always be possible, but it is worth it to ask to have your baby placed upon your chest immediately after birth and into post-op. Recommendation is that mom and baby are skin to skin for at least one hour after birth. This is to help breastfeeding, temperature regulation, heart rate regulation, blood pressure regulation, you name it. Plus, if you were a baby being born into this world full of stimulation (aka: bright lights, beeping noises, loud voices, etc) wouldn't you want to be snuggled up against your mommas warm skin? A lot of hospitals have this as a standard practice now, but be sure to ask as well!
2) Clear Drape. This is becoming more of a trend for hospitals to use a clear drape so that mom and dad can actively see baby being born. This may not be for everyone, but if you desire to see your baby being born, ask to use a clear drape (if your hospital has one) instead of a blue drape that is commonly used during cesarean sections.
3) Baby stay with mom throughout the entire cesarean and post-operative phase. A lot of times they will separate mom/baby while mom is being closed up. However, you can always ask to have your baby with you while this is happening.
4) INFORMATION! ask for information about what the procedure entails, what to expect afterwards, what to expect for breastfeeding, etc. Taking charge of your health care is the most important thing! After all, you are in charge of your birth. Requesting information allows you to be more informed and make informed decisions regarding your care, and your baby's care.
5) Request to limit visitors. This also isn't for everyone, but adjusting to new motherhood is overwhelming at times, and immediately after a cesarean you will be sore and tired and need to rest. Asking family/friends to wait a day or two before visiting is always a good option for some families.
6) Delayed cord clamping. This is a common practice now in hospitals, where you delay cutting the cord until it has stopped pulsing. This gives your baby endless benefits. In the event of an emergency, this will usually not be permitted however, most doctors try their very best to delay cord clamping due to the benefits provided to baby.
7) Gentle Cesarean birth. I've added a link to a video here that describes what a gentle cesarean can look like. It is a new option, so not everyone may be familiar with it, but it is definitely worth it to discuss with your healthcare team that this is something you may like.
Hopefully this gave a bit more insight into cesarean sections. To all your mommas who have had a Cesaren birth: You are strong. You are powerful. You are worthy. You are loved. You are mama. You birthed your baby, and perhaps it was not how you intended, or maybe it was, but just know that the birth of your baby was real and sacred and for that, you are amazing.
I've added a couple resources to have a look at if you're having a cesarean birth, and even just to educate yourself on below.
Happy Cesarean Awareness Month.