Preparing for a Cesarean Section
Even if you are preparing for a cesarean section, it's still important to know the signs of labor or signs that indicate you or your baby may be in distress. Prior to your procedure, your healthcare team will tell you what to do both before and after the surgery. By preparing for a cesarean section ahead of time, you help ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.
When a cesarean section is scheduled ahead of time, rather than performed in an emergency situation, it is similar to having a scheduled surgery. Usually, cesarean sections are scheduled when you are 39 weeks pregnant or when the baby is ready for life outside the womb. It may be done earlier, if you have a scar on the upper part of your uterus from a previous cesarean section.
Even though you may be planning to have a cesarean section, it is still important for you to know the signs of labor in case your labor starts before your scheduled cesarean section.
One of the first signs of labor is intense contractions of your uterus that come at regular intervals. Another sign is when your cervix starts to dilate and the protective mucus plug loosens and falls out. It is also possible for your water to break at this point. When your water breaks, this means that the amniotic sac in your uterus has burst and released the amniotic fluid. Usually, contractions will get stronger after your water breaks. If you have these signs, you should call your doctor or the birthing center to determine if you actually are in labor.
There are also some signs that mean you should call your doctor right away. These can include:
- You have vaginal bleeding that is either more than spotting or is bright red
- Your water breaks and you are not having contractions
- Your contractions are closer together than every 5 minutes
- You have severe and constant pain, rather than contractions
- You are more than 3 weeks away from your due date, but are having more than 5 contractions in an hour.
These may be signs that either you or your baby are having trouble, or that you will need to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. In any case, you may need to go to the birthing center right away.
Once you are there, a medical professional should check to make sure that you are actually in labor. If you are not, he or she may want to observe you for awhile and then suggest that you go home with instructions about what to watch for. If you are in labor, the medical professional will prepare you for your cesarean section.