A cesarean section or c-section is the surgical delivery of a baby by making incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. It got its name from the story (probably untrue) that the procedure was performed when Julius Caesar was born.
As with any surgery, there are risks associated with c-sections. The good news is that with a bit of planning you can reduce some of the associated risks. This is the case whether you wind up with a planned or unplanned c-section.
Here is how to reduce some of the risks of a surgical birth:
1. For a planned cesarean, wash your body before giving birth.
Use antibacterial soap, as it can reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin incision area. This will reduce your risk of infection after surgery, which is one of the most common risks associated with a cesarean.
2. Stay warm.
Getting cold either before or during surgery can increase the likelihood of infection. When you’re waiting for your surgery or during your surgery, ask for warm blankets as most operating rooms are ice cold.
3. Use clippers, not razors.
One of the steps in preparing for a cesarean is to shave the hair where the incision will be made. This has been done with a razor in the past, but now it is shown that using clippers removes enough hair and also lowers the infection rate compared to shaving. Most hospitals do this automatically; simply ask if yours does and, if the answer is no, make a request to change.
4. Minimize catheter use.
A catheter is standard during and just after surgery. But as soon as you think you’re able to use a bedpan or get up to go to the bathroom, even with assistance, do it. The sooner you get your catheter out the faster you will walk, which both aids healing and also reduces your risk of infection from the catheter.
5. Walk soon after surgery.
The sooner that you can get up and move around, the faster healing will occur. You will also decrease the risk of blood clots. The first few times, you will likely walk with the help of your nurses and partner. This will get easier each time you do it.
6. Follow your wound care instructions.
Follow instructions on how to care for your incision. These may vary depending on whether you have staples, steri-strips or another type of closure. But watching for signs of infection and following your care schedule can help you prevent infection or at least recognize it early.
7. Wait until labor starts or at least until the 39th week of pregnancy.
Evidence shows us that babies born by scheduled c-section who are thought to be term, may be actually born just slightly before full term. The new recommendation is to wait until at least 39 weeks to schedule a birth or until labor starts on its own. This can help ensure that your baby is the healthiest she or he possible can be. (It is important to note that some reasons for doing a planned cesarean may require birth to occur prior to 39 weeks. You will need to discuss the implications of such a decision for your health and the health of your baby, and plan accordingly.)