So, You’re Having a C-Section (The Entire Procedure Explained)

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Hi again! I thought I’d share some valuable info regarding CESAREAN SECTIONS. Today, C-Sections make up around 30% of all births here in the United States. And, in some parts of the world, it’s much higher. In China, the rate is approaching 50%, and in some private Brazilian clinics back in 2013, the rate had topped out at around 80%-90%.

That’s a lot of women! Since that number is so high, I thought I’d share with you how everything goes from my perspective, so YOU might have a more informed, positive perception of how your surgery will go.

I’m not here to discuss the pros and cons regarding C-sections vs vaginal birth, nor am I going to discuss WHY it’s more beneficial to have a vaginal birth over a cesarean section. From a general standpoint, it IS much more beneficial to have a vaginal birth. But, in MOST cases, the reason you are having a C-section in the first place, is because IN YOUR CASE, a C-section is a much safer route of delivering YOUR BABY at THAT TIME.

Let me give a few examples, so we can get on the same page.

  1. Your baby is having a hard time adjusting to labor. His heart rate is dipping much too low, and interventions have already been taken to try and increase his heart rate back to normal, multiple times : C-SECTION. Your baby doesn’t want to come out of your vagina.
  2. You are pushing for more than 3 hours, and have made very little, if any, progress and baby is starting to get stressed out. Your doctor tries to perform a vacuum delivery, but is unsuccessful : C-SECTION. Your baby doesn’t want to come out of your vagina.
  3. You’ve had 2 or more C-sections before because you’ve tried to labor, and were unsuccessful (for whatever reason) : C-SECTION. Your baby doesn’t want to come out of your vagina.
  4. Your baby’s shoulder, feet, booty, face, or any other part of his body is presenting at your your cervix instead of his head : (In most cases) C-SECTION. Your baby doesn’t want to come out of your vagina.

I will say, there are some women who rock breech (booty first) deliveries, and in some cases this is totally safe and fine! Many times if you’ve never had a baby before, though, and your baby is booty first, it’s much safer to have a C-section for numerous reasons. 😊

THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER REASONS AS WELL. These are just a few examples of why, sometimes, it’s much more beneficial to your babe to have a C-Section.

YES, there are some C-Sections that are unwarranted. There are some practitioners out there who perform C-Sections for unnecessary reasons, or for convenience. I’m not sure of your specific case, but as a general rule….trust your doctor!

Choose a provider that you trust, and do some research. If you are interested in AVOIDING A C-SECTION, look up hospitals in your state, and their C-Section rates. Not many people actually do this, but this is one of the easiest ways of improving your vaginal delivery rate. If you are in the US, find your state here. In addition, Yelp just recently added C-Section rates and other statistics to their website! And, at your first prenatal appointment, interview your doctor or midwife. Ask them THEIR specific C-Section rate. If they have a good one, they will be happy to share that with you.

And, of course, if you’d like to learn a bit more about what happens during a vaginal delivery, click here. 🙂

PSST!! I see you are in the middle of packing your hospital bag for your C-Sectioin…before you read my super awesome article,, CHECK THIS OUT! Hillary from Pulling Curls is a fellow labor and delivery nurse, and she created a fantastic ONLINE PRENATAL COURSE. That’s right, she goes over EVERYTHING (including C-Sections!), and you don’t have to even have to leave your couch!

You get all the benefits of a traditional in-class style course, but you get to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home, on your own time. There’s 3 price points (one is only $20!), so pick which one works for your life, your budget and your needs.  There’s something just right for you! Pretty brilliant if you ask me! 🙂 Check it out here, and tell her I sent you!

UPDATE: Use code LABORTEEN for 10% off any course!


SO, if you are planning on a C-Section, or end up having a C-Section (for whatever reason)…I’m about to share with you how everything goes from my perspective.

Let’s start with some prep. I’m going to explain everything as if you were having a SCHEDULED C-Section. If you end up having an unscheduled C-Section, or an emergency C-Section, know that most of these procedural tasks still happen, they just happen much faster and with more people helping.

If you schedule your C-Section, your doctor will ask you to be at the hospital about 2-3 hours before your actual surgery. Starting an IV, drawing blood, waiting for the blood to result, and monitoring your baby, takes some time, and we want to make sure we have plenty of time to complete these tasks!

It’s important to also note that your doctor will tell you not to eat anything for at least 8 hours before your surgery. Trust me, there have been ladies who have stopped at McDonalds on their way into the hospital, and, unfortunately, that will get your surgery delayed!

Once you arrive, you’ll be asked to undress completely, take off all jewelry, and change into a gown. I’ll then put you on the monitor, and watch baby’s heart rate for awhile while we go over all of your health history.

The most important task that I need to complete is starting your IV, and getting a few blood tubes down to our lab. Some of these blood tests can take an hour or more to result, and if I have a difficult time starting your IV, this can delay the process by quite a bit.

Once we get your health history completed, your IV started, and your paperwork completed, your doctor will come to see you and explain how your procedure will go. This will be the time when he/she will answer any questions that you have, and have you sign a consent form for your surgery.

Your doctor also may perform an ultrasound at this time, to assess the way baby is lying. As I referenced before, a popular reason why many women have C-Sections is because baby is breech, or side lying. Sometimes babies like to magically flip around and become head down on the day of your surgery! In that case, your doctor will talk to you about possibly being able to have a vaginal delivery instead.

Another team member who will talk to you before your surgery is either an anesthesiologist, or a nurse anesthetist. A member of the anesthesia team is always in the operating room (OR) during your surgery, so they have a checklist of tasks and assessments they must complete before we roll back to the OR as well. They usually perform an assessment on you, have you sign a consent form, and answer any questions you have about the form of anesthesia you will receive during surgery.

Once everyone that needs to see you has been in the room, I’ll grab a set of OR clothes for your partner (or whoever you choose to be back with you during surgery), and I’ll also grab you a dose of sodium bicarbonate.Sodium bicarbonate is routinely given before surgery, because it helps to neutralize the acid in your stomach. In the event that you vomit while laying flat on the OR table (which sometimes happens), and breathe in a little bit of vomit to your lungs, the acidity of your stomach contents can be harmful to your lung tissue. So, sodium bicarbonate helps to neutralize that acid, just in case that happens. Don’t worry, though, this is a pretty rare event.

Heads up, though, sodium bicarbonate is given orally, and it’s pretty yucky. It’s about the size of a tequilla shot, and tastes like grape Gatorade mixed with ocean water. It’s not pleasant, but it IS necessary, so bottoms up!


Alright, time to head back to the OR! Your partner will stay back in your room for about 15-20 minutes while we prep you in the operating room. Once we get back there, the first order of business is numbing you up. Generally, if you have no major heath history, the anesthesiologist will be performing a spinal tap, and giving you a medication that numbs you from about the waist down.

If you are having an unscheduled, or emergency C-Section, and you ALREADY have an epidural placed, we skip this step! The anesthesia team will dose your epidural accordingly, AS LONG AS your epidural was working properly before your surgery.

Once we arrive to the room, you’ll sit on the edge of the OR table, and the anesthesiologist will prep your back for placement. It’s important to remember to sit very still during the procedure, and also to curl your back in a C shape. You want to sit very slouched, and with very bad posture. Head and neck rolled down, looking at your feet. Once your back has been prepped, a small needle will be inserted to numb your back, followed by a larger needle that’s used for placement.

This is very similar to receiving an epidural, and I’ve actually written an entire article on epidural placement here, if you’d like to check it out!

Once anesthesia has found placement, he/she will deliver the medication and your feet will begin to go numb very quickly. Contrarily to epidural placement, no type of line will stay in your back, unless your doctor feels your surgery will be much, much longer than usual. Once anesthesia is finished, we will all help to lay you down flat on the OR table. Once flat, I’ll listen to baby’s heart rate for just a few seconds, and also put a big bump (a pillow or rolled up blanket) underneath your right hip. This bump helps to maximize your blood flow output to baby.

By this point, your legs will have almost completely gone numb. I’ll then insert a Foley catheter into your bladder. Some hospitals also routinely perform what’s called a “vaginal prep” before all C-Sections. This is done to reduce infections of the surgical skin site or any infection of the uterus (endometritis) post-op. I basically take a big sloppy wet sponge and paint your groin and perineum area.

At this time I’ll also place sequential compression devices (SCD’s) on your calves. SCD’s are worn by almost all surgical patients in the United States, during surgery and post-operatively as well. They are big Velcro calf sleeves connected to a pump that inflates and deflates every few seconds. They squeeze your legs sporadically like this because they are thought to help increase blood flow to the lower half of your body. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of you developing any blood clots. Sometimes if you are on bed rest for an extended period of time, your doctor will order these to remain on your legs as well.

Once I’ve completed these tasks, we will strap your legs down with a safety belt to the table, and begin prepping your belly with a solution for surgery. This only takes a few minutes, and then the doctor will suit up and hang a sterile drape over you and prepare for incision. Some hospitals also have clear drapes that can be requested, so you can see baby come out live in action! Check accordingly with the place you deliver.

As all of this is going on, I’m usually running back and forth completing tasks as required, and doing my necessary charting in our computer system. However, a NURSE ANESTHETIST will be with you the entire time at your head, talking to you throughout prep and surgery. His/Her responsibility is monitoring your vital signs, and giving you any necessary medications during surgery.

Once we’ve got your draped, the medical team will do a quick “time out” to verify the procedure, your name, birth date, allergies, and other identifying information. Now we will get started! The doctor will test the incision site, to make sure you are completely numb, and then we will go get your partner to come sit with you during surgery.

Depending on which hospital you deliver at, a pediatric team may also be present at your delivery. This is standard at the hospital I work at. Right around the time of incision is when we call them to attend. They are in charge of catching baby from the doctor, stabilizing baby if needed, and assigning Apgars.


Cut! We make a note of all key events that happen in the OR, and this is a big one! If you’ve never had any sort of abdominal surgery before, the time from when the doctor makes incision to the time baby is born is actually pretty quick! If you HAVE had another C-Section, or any sort of abdominal surgery, you have scar tissue near your incision, and it can take a bit of time for the doctor to cut through this scar tissue.

Once the doctor has cut through your skin, fat and muscle layers, and any scar tissue, next up is your uterus! Once this incision is made, baby is born in just a few seconds! You won’t have felt much of anything up until this point, BUT as the doctor is manipulating baby from your uterus, you will feel a TON of abdominal pressure and discomfort. Breathe through it though, because it is short lived.

Baby is out! Baby will be stabilized, umbilical cord will be clamped and cut, and Apgars will be assigned. This is the time when your partner may come over to the warmer and get a few first looks and pictures of baby. If you are feeling up to it, as well, most facilities will let you do skin-to-skin at this time. Many mamas op to do this after we exit the OR, however, and that is totally fine! In that case, we will wrap baby up and let your partner hold baby for the remainder of the procedure.

After baby is out, your placenta will be detached, and then comes the longest part of all…stitching everything back together!

The doctor will start by sewing your uterus back up, followed by each layer he/she has cut through. While this is going on, we will be giving you PITOCIN through your IV, and monitoring your bleeding. Pitocin is given to help DECREASE the amount of postpartum bleeding you will experience.

Once everything is sewn back up, we put a BIG dressing over your incision site, and begin cleaning you up. We put an initial dressing on you, but I’ve actually heard of women using these nifty things when they return home. Check with your provider, but they are generally safe to use after the first dressing is removed.

We will move you off of the OR table, to a postpartum bed as we prepare to transfer you to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). I’ll stay with you for approximately 2 hours in the PACU, and from there we will head to postpartum!

That’s pretty much a C-Section in a nutshell! As you can see, there are a TON of team members doing a TON of different tasks, so it can get confusing at times, if you don’t know what’s going on! I’ve just highlighted prep and procedure, so stay tuned for a post regarding C-Section RECOVERY, because there is a lot that goes on during that time as well!

Be sure to pick up some super sexy postpartum panties, too, while you’re at it! These are specifically designed for C-Section mamas 🙂

And, have you heard of the Bellefit Corsets for post-baby recovery? I feel like they are all the rage nowadays! They are a bit pricey, but most mamas do not regret their purchase, because they truly do a great job of tightening everything back up! Be sure to check them out here.

Do you have a C-Section scheduled? What questions do you have? I want to know! Leave me a comment 😊

OR, are you planning to VBAC? Learn what happens during a vaginal delivery here!

Happy Delivery Day! 🙂

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  1. Brittany
    March 22, 2018 / 12:13 am

    I will be having a scheduled c section with this pregnancy as I had a stalled labor with my first that required a c section… I had been in unmedicated labor for 14 hours and my labor stalled at 7cm for several hours despite turning up the pitocin multiple times. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting a c section so I was kind of swept up in all of the hustle and prep work all while having contractions every 45 seconds so I didn’t have much time too think and make myself nervous. However, this time around, I know all this is coming and I can’t help but freak out. It’s basically all I think about in my down time, and ever time someone asks my due date it inevitably comes up. Do you have any advice to calm my nerves this time around?

    • Liesel
      March 22, 2018 / 2:22 pm

      Hey Brittany! Wow, that sounds like a rough go-around. Crazy that you got that far dilated, and then stalled out. I can totally understand why you are so nervous and anxious about your second one, because it sounds like what you had to go through was pretty traumatic, and not at all what you had in your mind for your birth experience. I can understand the “waiting fear” aspect too. I totally suffer from that. Whether it’s a big project I have coming up, or speaking in front of a crowd, etc, usually the anxiety of waiting for it to happen is worse than actually doing it! Maybe you can think of it like that, and instead of letting the fear get the best of you, try and turn that fear and anxiety into excitement. Try and think of how awesome it will be to be DONE with it all, and meeting baby, instead of fearing the actual procedure. Maybe what will help, too, is I think you will find that your scheduled c-section will be COMPLETELY different from your first. You won’t be laboring, or in pain really at all before your surgery. That feeds into anxiety more than anything, working through contractions as you are being prepped for surgery. Best of luck to you! 🙂

  2. ann
    March 26, 2018 / 10:03 am

    First off, i love your blog!! giving me so much insight, i will be having my first in June and i am absolutely clueluess. i am opting for c section because i am worry of the pain and episotomy. i have very low pain tolerance. based on your professional inisight, please let me know what you think? is natural delivery is always the best? how would be the recovery for c section? appreciate your feedback. thanks!

    • Liesel
      March 26, 2018 / 9:14 pm

      Hi Ann! I’m so glad you are enjoying my blog! I’m happy that even though you feel clueless you are trying to read up and do some research! In terms of a vaginal delivery vs. a c-section…in most cases it IS much more beneficial for you and for baby to at least attempt a vaginal delivery (especially the first time around). There are certain cases when a C-section is medically warranted, such as baby being flipped around, or if baby is in any sort of distress. Even though you say you have a very low pain tolerance, there are many ways to cope with the pain of labor! I’d suggest you read up on epidurals, because they are WONDERFUL at relieving contraction pain. Also, you can certainly refuse an episiotomy! Most providers have gone away with doing them nowadays anyway. The only time one is really warranted is if baby is in distress right before delivery. But, you may certainly voice beforehand that you do not want one “just because”. C-section recoveries are much more difficult than vaginal recoveries as well, anyone who has had a C-section can tell you that. It makes it much more difficult to get around, you have to deal with incision pain, the healing process is longer, and you definitely need a lot more help from family and friends! Many women take up to 8 weeks off after a C-section, because it truly takes that long to recover. Whichever you decided, however, my best to you!

  3. Amelia
    March 29, 2018 / 12:25 pm

    Hi I am having aa second c section (this time planned) but it’s been 5 years and I avant remeber much of it. I remeber I was pretty calm and didn’t cry when the baby arrived and I was sewn back but (silly question to some maybe) what if I cry this time, will it make it harder to see me back up because of the “belly jiggles”? I don’t want to be worried to cry.

    • Liesel
      March 30, 2018 / 5:00 pm

      Hi Amelia! Totally not a silly question! Do not be worried at all about the “belly jiggles”! They numb you up very well, so it’s unlikely you will experience any of that at all. Definitely do not be afraid to cry! My best to you!

  4. Hailey L
    April 28, 2018 / 12:50 pm

    Hi there! Thanks for your very informative blog! I’m due with di/di twins in August and I wanted to know if there were any differences that a twin c-section would present than just a singleton? Thanks!

    • Liesel
      May 1, 2018 / 4:13 pm

      There’s not too much of a difference on our end actually! Just a bit more charting, and there will be a few more people in the room (nursery/nicu staff), since there’s two coming out! As long as both babies come out happy we try to keep them with you at all times just how we would a singleton. You can totally do skin to skin in the OR, as long as that’s what you want, just takes a little more help from us! Best of luck!!

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