Is it Common for Moms to Feel Pain During a C-section?
A C-section, or Cesarean Section, is a surgery performed to remove your baby manually if your attempt at a natural vaginal birth is not going well, or has no longer become possible. A vertical or horizontal incision is made through your abdomen and uterus to remove safely and quickly remove your baby. For many pregnant mothers, the possibility of a c-section is quite possibly the most common fear during labor and birth.
Why is a c-section performed?
-Your placenta is too low in your uterus and is partially or entirely covering your cervix (the opening between your uterus and vaginal canal).
- Your placenta has separated or is separating from your uterine wall.
- Your uterus has ruptured.
- Your baby is in a feet down position (breech) when labor begins or attempts to be delivered shoulder first.
- Your baby’s umbilical cord exits your womb first during labor (prolapsed).
- Your baby is not handling labor well, has an irregular heartbeat or low oxygen.
- Your water has broken, and labor has not begun within 24 hours and induction attempts have failed.
-Your baby’s head is too large to fit through your pelvis or he/she has become stuck and cannot be manually removed via assisted delivery.
-You have a contagious STD.
-Your baby is growing abnormally, induction has failed, and delivery is necessary.
-You develop high blood pressure during your pregnancy.
-There are known birth defects that require a c-section.
-You are pregnant with twins (This does not guarantee a c-section but increases the chance.)
-You had a previous c-section (This also does not guarantee a c-section, but is common practice. It may be difficult to find a doctor willing to deliver a VBAC or vaginal baby after c-section.
-You have elected to have a cesarean delivery for personal reasons.
As of 2007 one in three births in the United States was via c-section. C-sections carry an increased risk of infection, a longer recovery time, and can cause complications with future pregnancies. The increased rate in the U.S is attributed to an increase in unnecessary interventions during labor, elective cesarean, a rise in STD rates, as well as an increase in older women becoming pregnant.
What does a c-section feel like?
When done properly, you are well-medicated during your procedure and will likely be fully awake. In cases, such as emergency c-sections or at your request, you may be put under and remain unconscious for the procedure. Most women report they either felt nothing, or could only feel the doctor “moving” things and slight pressure here and there, but felt no pain. Having pain during a c-section may not be common. However if you can feel pain, you need to let your doctor or a nurse know immediately. You should not feel pain. The same way some patients react to, say, dental anesthesia differently, pregnant women can react differently to medications given during a cesarean delivery. Some women have felt brief moments of pain so if you don’t alert your doctor, they may continue not knowing you are in pain. Again, pain is not normal, and you should speak up. Don’t try to just “tough it out.”
After your c-section:
After a c-section, once the medication for the procedure has worn off, pain is very normal. You will be given breastfeeding safe pain medication to be taken as needed to handle that pain. It is important you follow the instructions provided by your care provider in regards to your activity level and incision care. Typically, mothers who are given a c-section stay in the hospital around 4 days, or about double that of a normal vaginal birth. No heavy lifting should be done within two weeks and you cannot drive a vehicle. No strenuous activity for three to four weeks and no sex for six weeks. Many women report that it took 90+ days for them to feel recovered from their c-section. Others report while they mostly felt back to normal, the musculature of their abdomen was never the same and continued to cause pain or at the least “felt different” forever. It should be expected that your body may feel different after, however, keep in mind like all bodily effects of pregnancy, c-section after effects are also worth it when you consider the reward is your new baby.
Preventing a c-section:
C-sections can’t be prevented in all cases, such as those as a result of an active STD, but they are preventable in other cases, primarily those related to the actual labor. You can reduce your chance by:
-Taking child birthing classes and familiarizing yourself with the process of labor so you know what to expect. Also consider hiring a doula to support and guide you through your labor and birthing process.
-Keeping a healthy diet and exercise regime during pregnancy so that your body is healthy and strong for labor.
-Maintaining good prenatal care to catch complications before they are severe enough to require a c-section.
-Research your care provider and hospital. (If you choose to use one) Find out your provider’s views on c-section as well as their rate of occurrence for that provider. Some providers are more apt to perform c-sections than others, particularly in cases where a woman has already had a c-section.
-Research the possible reasons for needing a c-section beyond the brief overview shared here, and be aware of alternatives to c-section in their occurrence.
-Avoid induction. Due dates are relative, if there is no immediate risk to your baby’s health, request you wait for the natural beginning of your labor, very few labors actually begin on their due date. Your baby is not a loaf of bread that has a convenient “bing” to tell you he or she is all done.
-During your delivery, if a c-section is suggested, ask why, and explore other options if your health or your baby’s health is not in immediate danger.
The idea of a c-section is a scary thing, but you’re strong enough to face it for your baby. Just be sure to do you research, stand up for your health if necessary, and please, if you feel pain, say so.
Amanda Vin Zant is a contributing women’s health writer