My Birth Story, Plus Tips on Recovering From A C-Section
I’m excited to share that I just welcomed baby #3 into the world about 2 months ago and couldn’t be more in love!
I wanted to share a little bit of my birth story and about having a c-section since I’ve had some requests to share and it’s relevant to my blog (health/fitness). Scroll to the bottom for my Q&A. For those of you who aren’t interested in baby topics – I ask you to just be patient with me because the next few posts may center around that since that’s what is going on in my life and also driving my current fitness routine. I plan to start sharing details of my postpartum workouts once I start working out. Even if you haven’t had a baby – I think they could still be useful.
Overall, my pregnancy this time was similar to my first 2 pregnancies – except that I started out 10lb heavier. During the first and second trimesters, I was still working out at the gym 3x per week doing a mix of cardio (usually 30min of treadmill walking with inclines or boxing intervals) and strength training for about 1 to 1.5 hours each time. For strength training I spent extra focus on my back, glutes and legs to avoid having back pain. I did a lot of deadlifts, seated leg extensions, squats (first trimester) and walking lunges. But, when we got hit with coronavirus – I started a walking routine at home. I tried to go for a walk almost every night for 30-45minutes in my neighborhood and I felt it kept my sanity and I think is helping me recover better. I only did a little strength training in my 3rd trimester and mainly just did walks.
Although I had to have 2 prior c-sections (not by choice) I switched doctors and found one that was willing to let me try for a VBAC this time. I did a lot of research and thought I would still be a good candidate for VBAC despite having 2 prior c-sections and my doctor agreed (see FAQ below). I was nervous to have a 3rd c-section since it’s a major surgery and many things can go wrong. However, they can also go wrong with a VBAC like the slight chance of uterine rupture or other complications. After discussing it with my doctor – we planned on VBAC the entire pregnancy. I only gained about 20lb up until the end when I started getting really big and then gained over 10lb of just fluid! At most of my ultrasound appointments they kept telling me this was a “big baby” but I know that isn’t always the case and not a reason to panic or think you can not have a regular or VBAC delivery. But, as the weeks went on and I got closer to my due date they kept saying my baby was measuring really big and he was 10.3lbs at only 34 weeks! I didn’t have gestational diabetes (a reason why many babies are large) or any other complications. However, near 37 weeks my ultrasound showed that my amniotic fluid levels had increased tremendously and I was at risk for many complications because of this. It’s a condition called polyhydramnios and can cause many problems for mom and baby including placenta separation, bleeding, cord prolapse and many others. The ultrasound doctor explained to me during my visit that at that point (37 weeks) it would actually be less risky to have a c-section and to do it soon, rather than to wait and go into labor on my own. She told me to pack my hospital bags when I went to see my obgyn the next day for my 37 week checkup because she had a feeling my doctor would admit me that day to the hospital. So, Sure enough – my doctor said that is what she recommended. She said it wasn’t safe for me and the baby and she recommended we do a c-section immediately that day. Luckily I had my hospital bag packed and my husband met me in the lobby and we went to the adjacent hospital to check in.
With my first 2 babies – I went into labor on my own and was in labor at the hospital for a very long time (almost 40 hours with my daughter!) and then ultimately had to surrender to c-sections with both. So, for this one pregnancy it was actually less stressful because I wasn’t in pain from labor and my doctor and nurses didn’t have to rush as much to get me ready since it was less of an emergency. I also didn’t have an epidural this time – but a spinal block. Apparently the difference between epidural and spinal block is that the epidural lasts longer but with the spinal block you feel less during the surgery. That was true for me and that made me a lot happier because with the first 2 I felt a lot of the tugging, pulling and what felt like more of the surgery. I never had pain but just felt more of what they were doing when I had an epidural. With the spinal block I didn’t even realize they had started the surgery and then all of a sudden I heard my baby cry! I could’t believe they had already taken him out! I did feel tugging and my body moving back and forth more after he was out when they were finishing the procedure, but it was not painful or uncomfortable at all. So, if I had to have the choice again I would definitely do the spinal block. They both are inserted via catheter into your spine and felt the same way being inserted (you are numbed first). I was still very nervous to have the c-section and not being able to feel my legs gave me anxiety. Luckily the OR nurses were great (thanks Lorena!) and my husband was there to hold my hand. I just kept trying to focus on the baby and breathe to calm my nerves. I did get nauseous and they were able to give me something in my IV and also one of the nurses used an alcohol swab/pad under my nose and it helped a lot – with the nausea and anxiety!
After my baby was born I didn’t get to hold him right away like I had wanted because he had a minor breathing issue due to all the fluid and also since he was born at 37 weeks. Technically that’s full-term but now research shows that it’s better for babies to stay in the womb until 39 weeks if possible. After they got his breathing stabilized they brought him over to me and I was so overwhelmed with emotion! He was the cutest, chubbiest newborn I had ever seen with cute chubby cheeks! I was so happy but also super sad because I knew he was struggling – so I was ok with them taking him to the NICU for observation.
I ended up staying in the hospital 4 nights and I was recovering just fine. The 3rd day was the worst for me but it was for my other 2 c-sections too. It’s when the pain meds start wearing off and you become more active getting up to us the bathroom (no catheter anymore) and holding/feeding your baby. My baby had to stay in the NICU the whole time to monitor his breathing and his blood glucose since it was a little low (it’s common with large babies). So, I had to be wheeled down to the NICU every 3 hours to feed him. I knew I wanted to breastfeed since I did it with my other 2 and was happy he was able to do that. On the 5th day we were both discharged and I was able to bring my healthy baby boy home!
Recovery at home was surprisingly about the same as it was with my other 2, if not slightly better. I think all the walking I did during my pregnancy really helped. Getting in and out of bed was really hard (as was sitting/standing) for the first week. But, overall I wouldn’t say that having a 3rd c-section was any harder or painful that the others. This could also be because I knew what to expect. It was hard not being able to play with my other children – but I knew this was just temporary and I reminded myself not to overdo it or my recovery would take even longer. I had tons of swelling (maybe more this time) in my legs, ankles and feet. It’s normal though and lasts about 2 weeks until your body can gradually get rid of it. It affected my blood pressure though and I actually had to get on medication for about 2 weeks because it was dangerously high at one point. Although I didn’t have it – it’s possible to have postpartum preeclampsia. So, if you think your blood pressure is high or you have any symptoms (headaches, blurred vision, breathing rapidly, etc) check with your doctor right away.
Here are a few FAQ’s I’ve received from DM’s and social media:
Was it hard being pregnant during COVID-19/Coronavirus?
Yes, mainly because I couldn’t take my other 2 kids out to do things and they weren’t in school – which means I got less time to myself. I also wasn’t able to take my husband or kids to any doctor appointments or ultrasound appointment which I wanted to do. This was my 3rd baby – so I wasn’t planning to have a baby shower but feel bad for those expecting mamas that had to miss out on that. But, I am going to plan a virtual “Sip and See” party with friends!
What was your hospital experience like during the pandemic?
Things were a lot more strict. First of all they check your temp and ask you questions before you even go to the labor and delivery department. Once I was admitted they actually tested me for coronavirus which was not fun but I’m glad they did. I was only allowed to have 1 guest with me the whole time (my husband) and no children were allowed at all. If my husband wanted to leave he had to wait until the next day to return. He was allowed to be in the OR with me during delivery thank goodness. I had to wear a mask most of the time I was in the hospital except when we were alone in our room and also during the c-section since I had an oxygen tube under my nose. All of the doctors and nurses wore masks all of the time, as did the other hospital employees.
Is having a third c-section harder than the first or second?
In my experience it was not (see above for details). I was really scared the surgery would be harder or something would go wrong since I figured I had more scare tissue, etc (which my DR said I did) but it still went smoothly. I felt the recovery was about the same as the other 2 as well.
Is it riskier to have a third c-section? Should I try to have a VBAC?
I would talk to your doctor about this because I think it depends on your situation and your body. From what I had researched – it seemed like having a 3rd c-section was more risky than vbac and that’s why I tried really hard to find a good doctor that was open to me trying a vbac or at least “trial of labor after cesarian” (TOLAC). However, when I found out I had polyhydramnios it became more risky for me to do vbac since that would require for me to go into labor on my own (they can’t induce you after you’ve had a c-section). So, ultimately the 3rd c-section was less risky for me but may not be for everyone.
What can I do to recover faster from a c-section?
I would start with what you do during pregnancy. I would try to eat as healthy as you can, only gain the recommended weight and exercise if your doctor says you can. Don’t overdo workouts though. Just focus on your cardiovascular health and any areas you feel are weak. For me, that was my lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Then, after your surgery try to walk (slowly) as soon as your doctor tells you to. I also wore my belly binder that the hospital gave me and that helped a ton. If they don’t give you one you can buy one ahead of time on Amazon like this one or this one (I have both). I tried a bunch of them and they were either too tight, too stiff to sit down in or they rubbed me the wrong way. You can also wear them over your clothes/underwear if your skin is sensitive.
Did you do any core workouts while pregnant? Did they help with diastasis recti?
I did minimal core work with my first 2 pregnancies and never had diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles). This time around I wanted to focus on it a little more. However, what I found out was that more core work was actually starting to cause “coning” in my abdomen. What’s “coning”? It’s when you can notice a cone shape in your ab muscles when you sit or move a certain way that engages them. This can lead to DR (diastasis recti). So, I stopped doing exercises that I felt were making it worse. I know many people recommend planks during pregnancy but I felt they were making this “coning” show up even more. So, I stopped doing them. I also stopped doing the Smith Machine (weighted squats with the bar) because my core was contracting outward sometimes when I was doing the squats. So, instead I just focused on contracting my abdominal muscles for 20 seconds at a time when I did my nightly walks.