The Shit No One Tells You About Having An Emergency C-Section

Apr 6, 2023 | Giving Birth, Hospital, The Shit No One Tells You

As much as you may have set ideals in your mind about how you’d like to birth your child, life doesn’t quite always work to plan. The NHS estimates that about 17 in every 100 births result in an emergency c-section procedure taking place; that is, a caesarean that happens within 30mins of the need for it being identified and this case of action decided upon. Even if you’d elected to have a c-section, it may be you need one a little quicker than expected, so things may not pan out as you’d hoped. Here, Jenna covers off her experience of an emergency caesarean with her first baby, having intended to have a vaginal birth.

The NHS has some generic health information on caesarean section operations on its website, but it’s always recommended that you discuss all birthing options for you with your midwife, doula, nurse or doctor. You can find further information online from NHS Inform, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Tommy’s Pregnancy Hub.

TW: Medical and surgical themes.

I was lucky enough to have a smooth pregnancy with very few issues, the only one being high blood pressure, which is why I was booked in for an induction. Two days before this planned intervention though, I started getting contractions and as I felt the pain was getting too much my partner took me to hospital. We arrived at the delivery suite, were rushed straight into a room and I was examined by a midwife who confirmed I was 6cm dilated! While doing the examination, she said she’d accidentally given my baby a little knock on the head… and my little one thought this meant it was time to come out ASAP. What I didn’t know was what would happen next; and this is all the stuff I feel like I could have been better informed about.

Birth plans don’t always to go to plan

I didn’t have a set birth plan as such with any specific requests for staff present, but I had expected to give birth naturally… knowing that I’d take recommendations and go with the flow as needed.

However, when in the room with the midwife and doctor (and now about ten other assorted healthcare professionals) I was trying to breathe through a contraction when my waters broke. I was almost immediately in agony and couldn’t lay down flat, even though I was being told that I needed to get baby out safely. As I kept curling my body up, one of the doctors suggested an emergency c-section due to the stress that the baby was currently under. I agreed.

Not everyone gets to stay conscious during a C-section

It was proving really difficult for me to lay still and I was in real pain. As it wouldn’t have been safe for me (or baby) wriggling around, I agreed to a general anaesthetic. Within minutes I was taken through to theatre and put out straight away – but my baby’s Dad wasn’t able to come with me, as it was classified as an emergency. This meant he had to stay in a room with midwives updating him on our progress whenever they were able to.

This was not the image of caesarean sections you see on TV, because I wasn’t actually conscious for any it. I woke up a couple of hours later in a new room with another nurse that I hadn’t met before. Although I agreed to be knocked out (and don’t regret it now), I didn’t know before that that could happen. I was asked if I had any questions but I was so caught up with everything and in so much pain I couldn’t think of any.

The initial hormone rush may take a little longer to kick in

Within a few minutes of waking, a midwife came through with my newborn and partner. He was plonked on me (the baby, not my other half) and I’m not going to lie, that initial feeling of ‘wow, what a beautiful moment’ just wasn’t there. I had barely any strength still as a result of the anaesthetic and was worried he was going to roll off me. We had a few minutes of stilted cuddling – and then were told that my baby’s Dad would have to leave due to visiting times. I was wheeled off on the bed to the ward and felt desperately sad as my other half walked down the corridor to go home alone after spending a great few hours bonding with his son.

On the ward, I felt useless. I could barely move and my whole body felt so sore. Every time my son cried I buzzed for a midwife to check him over. It wasn’t until the next morning I found out that I’d had a placental abruption, which is why they’d needed to get baby out so quickly. This delay in info had left me in pain with no understanding why, and can’t have contributed well to my initial bonding with my baby.

The recovery period can be unexpectedly hard… especially when you weren’t expecting to be cut open!

When I’d thought about c-sections before, it had never crossed my mind how serious this surgery was – and I hadn’t looked into recovery as I wasn’t expecting to have one. I had a catheter bag attached post-op and could feel what I thought were bubble inside me. It turns out this was trapped air due to the surgery but they were really painful and even coughing or trying to clear my throat was unbearable as a result. My whole body felt fragile and I was having to take tablets every few hours as well as blood thinning injections daily.

I’ve seen people have c-sections and then get sent home the next day, so I presumed it would be the same in our case. It wasn’t. My temperature was so high that we had to be kept in hospital for 4 days, even though my baby was given the all-clear for sepsis, jaundice and anything else sinister.

Even if it’s not to plan, it’s all worth it in the end

Going home was the BEST feeling after all of the pain and unexpected delays. We got into our own routine, and taking the pain relief and administering the injections for my recovery soon felt like I’d always done it myself. I had to really get used to taking it slow and that if I had someone offering to help me, to let them!

At first I was worried about the washing piling up and the cleaning needing doing but in reality, that didn’t matter at all. My body needed to time to rest and recover and in some ways, having to focus on that meant I really soaked up the newborn bubble for the first few weeks.

Yes, it was scary at first and it was painful after, but I wouldn’t change any of it as I now have the perfect healthy little boy. 💛

The featured image on this page was taken by Jafar Ahmad, for Unsplash.