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What to Expect During Your C-Section Birth

Delivery via a c-section birth is becoming more and more common these days. In fact, in the United States, one in three births are via c-section.  Even if you are planning for a vaginal birth, it’s important to know what to expect with your c-section birth, should that become medically necessary for the safety of you and/or your baby.

What to Expect when you have a C-Section Birth

Why Would I Need A C-Section Birth?

First, let’s talk about why a mother might need a c-section birth.

Honestly, there can be SO many reasons for ending up with an unplanned cesarian birth.  With Hannah, I labored for 12 hours and then pushed for 3.  She just wouldn’t come down.  So after 3 hours, my doctor decided it was time to do the c-section.  I was sad, shocked, and extremely scared.  This was NOT in my plans!  I had not researched a c-section birth at all.

On the other hand, my friend ended up having an emergency c-section birth.  After laboring awhile, she ended up with a placental abruption.  So they rushed her to the OR for an emergency c-section.  However, from there, things got worse.  The anesthesiologist then knocked out her diaphragm with the spinal.  Which meant that she literally could NOT breathe!  They rushed her husband out of the room and knocked her out so they could intubate her.  So she, unfortunately, wasn’t able to be awake for the birth.

What To Expect With a C-Section Birth

Once it was decided that I needed a c-section birth, changes started happening.  All the delivery equipment in my room was removed.  And the doctor who would be performing my c-section came in just to chat with me for a couple minutes and to decide if it was really necessary to do the surgery.  After speaking with my doctor and hearing that pushing for 3 hours hadn’t brought any progression in her decent.  It was a go.  And honestly, by this point, I was so exhausted, I would have agreed to anything to get my baby out.


Because this was not an emergency, I received a low horizontal incision or also known as a “bikini cut”.  So a nurse came in and shaved me.

You’ll Get An IV

If you didn’t already have one (during laboring), you will now receive an IV.  This is for medicine as well as fluids.

What to expect with your c-section birth
This particular photo is with our last child and the ONLY c-section I had where I wasn’t already in labor too.  Hence why I could smile, albeit nervously.


With Hannah, I had labored and pushed for so long that I was extremely swollen.  However, I had two hair-brained nurses who thought that it would be a good idea to put the catheter in BEFORE heading to the operating room.  So while I was dealing with contractions, they were sticking me down there and trying to get it in!  They tried for over 5 minutes before giving up and saying “oh well, let’s just have them do it in the O.R. after the spinal”.  WHAT!?  What the h-e-double–hockey–sticks were you doing torturing me for then!?!

This is definitely a reason to have someone in the room advocating for you.  My husband felt helpless watching all this unfold because neither one of us knew better.  But no laboring mother should have to be a guinea pig for this! Request to have the catheter put in after your spinal.

For my other c-sections (children 3, 4, and 5), the catheter was put in AFTER the spinal.  Never a question even asked.  {And just in case you are wondering…  Hannah was our only child where we doctored at this particular clinic and hospital!}

But regardless, if you are having a cesarian, you will need a catheter put in.  Since you will be numb for several hours and unable to walk, you are also unable to use the restroom normally.  So the catheter is a necessary evil.

Head To The Operating Room

Because my c-section wasn’t an emergency.  I was wheeled down in a wheelchair.  Once in the operating room, I immediately noticed how FREEZING cold it is.  But don’t worry, the adrenaline makes you forget it quickly.  After transferring me from a wheelchair to the operating table, it was time for the spinal block.


This was an especially difficult part for 3 out of 4 of my c-sections as I was laboring during it.  After the nurse and anesthesiologist raised me up on the table, they had me lean over my stomach. 

I was supposed to curve my back out, which any pregnant woman knows is practically impossible.  But a nurse stood in front to try to help.  First, they draped my back with a sterile square.  Then they spread a numbing cream, which was also very cold, over the area. 

Next comes a little stick and slight burn as they inject the spinal block.  But the entire process for a spinal is quick. 

Then they tell you NOT to move and to let the nurse and anesthesiologist turn and lay you down.  You are still able to feel a little at this point but the spinal nerves will quickly, but temporarily, stop working.


As everyone gets ready for the c-section birth to start, you will also be given oxygen.  Your anesthesiologist will stay near you and be asking questions frequently. 

Your oxygen levels will be monitored as well as temperature and overall well-being.  Also, your spouse or significant other will be brought in and asked to stand by your head.

what to expect with your c-section birth

You may end up shaking and really cold.  So if this happens, they will also place heated blankets around your head and neck.  **This didn’t happen with every c-section I had, but it’s totally normal if it does.


After being laid down, most doctors will place a drape screen at chest level so you can’t see.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About C-Sections

C-Section Surgery

Once everything and everyone is in place, the surgery will begin.  An incision will be made in your abdomen and then in the uterus. 

I honestly had to ask if they had started because you can’t feel a thing at this point.  But if you ask, most doctors will give you a play-by-play of what’s happening.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About C-Sections

Baby Time

The wait to get to the baby is quite short although in the moment it can feel like a long time.  While I never timed it, I’d say they were pulling my baby out within 10-15 minutes of starting the surgery. 

When they get to the baby, I definitely felt tugging and pulling.  But NO pain.  Just pressure as they work to get baby out of the uterus. 

At this point, a nurse would lower the drape.  (Per my request.)  However, I still couldn’t see well for any of my deliveries.  My “baby belly” was still too round and blocked my view.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About C-Sections

It’s A ……..

As soon as the baby is out, they confirm whether it’s a boy or girl.  Then the baby is passed over to his/her own doctor and nurse team and brought to the warmer. 

The warmer has always been in eyesight of me.  However, it’s still hard to get a good glimpse since mom is still basically tied down to the operating table. 

They give baby oxygen, check stats, and give an Apgar score.  As soon as the baby is given the all clear, he/she is brought over to mom and dad.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About C-Sections

Finishing Surgery

While the baby was over getting checked out, the operating doctor and team continue to work on mom.  The placenta is removed.  Mom is stitched and/or stapled up. 

While I only received dissolvable stitches with all four of my c-sections, some women receive staples on the outer incision.  This is something you should discuss with your doctor prior to surgery. 

I always requested the dissolvable stitches.  However, I have a friend who had dissolvable stitches that ended up getting infected.  So her repeat c-sections consisted of staples.  (Her doctor did tell her that overweight women tend to do better with staples. 

So keep this in mind when discussing which would be best for you.)

Surgery from start to finish typically lasts 45-60 minutes.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About C-Sections

Off To The Recovery Room

Once the surgery is done, mom and baby are rolled off together to the recovery room – yay!  If you’re feeling a little shaky, they will let dad carry the baby or push him or her in the baby cart.  In the recovery room, they will continue to monitor mom and baby for another hour or so.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About C-Sections

And once you’re both given the all clear, you’ll be wheeled back to your room where you’ll stay for 2-4 days before being released to head home. Use this time to establish breastfeeding, rest, and bond with your baby.

I hope this information that I’ve shared will prepare you to be ready for your c-section birth!  (Head over to learn about what to expect AFTER your c-section birth too.) Congratulations on pregnancy and new bundle of joy!

monique s

Wednesday 29th of January 2020

Thank you for sharing. It is so helpful to get the personal experience that touches upon the details of what one will experience.

Shannon V Holmes

Thursday 26th of December 2019

Thanks for this informational article.

Nidhi C

Friday 20th of September 2019

My mom had three c-sections. Its very difficult. Thanks for sharing your story.

kathy pease

Thursday 21st of February 2019

I had 5 csections all under general anesthesia now I wish I had stayed awake during them

Mia E.

Monday 11th of February 2019

It does seem like I hear of more C-sections and scheduled deliveries in the last few years. This post would be so helpful to ease anxiety by knowing what to expect.