Most women in labour, whether high or low risk, will have a normal or natural birth. Occasionally though, a caesarean may be the safest option for you and your baby. To help prepare for this, Lesley Gilchrist from My Expert Midwife has put together an explanation of what may happen during that time.

What Happens If I Need To Have A Caesarean Section?

Whether this happens during your pregnancy or during labour the process is very much the same. The operation will be explained to you and you’ll be asked to sign a form to say that you understand everything.

In The Operating Theatre

When you arrive into the operating theatre you will be introduced to everyone you meet. The anaesthetist and their assistant will make sure that you’re comfortable and they will then begin giving you the anaesthetic to make sure that you’re numb for the surgery. First of all, they’ll place a small plastic tube into the back of your hand. They’ll then check your blood pressure and pulse. Once they’re happy with everything, the anaesthetist will begin to inject your back with the local anaesthetic. It doesn’t take long, a few minutes and you’re sitting up the whole time. Once that’s done you’ll feel your bottom become warm and tingly and your midwife will help you to lie down.

Once the anaesthetist is happy that you can’t feel anything your midwife will put a small tube (catheter) into your bladder so that it empties. You’ll then have your tummy covered with sterile sheets and you may also hear lots of chatter between members of the team as Caesarean section instruments are counted and checked. This is all normal and nothing to worry about. Where possible the atmosphere in the operating theatre is happy and relaxed; a baby is about to be born after all!

Once your operation has begun, your baby will normally be born within a few minutes. A small incision will have been made at your bikini line and, once he is born, your placenta will also be removed. If your baby needs help to breathe when he is born, or if there are any other concerns, he will be taken over to the baby doctors, who will also be in the operating theatre, to be assessed and treated if needed.

Your midwife will be with you to keep you updated and offer support with skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.


Once your operation is over you’ll be moved to a room or ward where you will be observed for signs of bleeding or complications, although this is extremely rare. Your baby will also be checked and again there will be someone with you to help with feeding and changing.

Postnatal Wards

Once time on the recovery ward has established that all is well with you and baby, you’ll both be moved to the postnatal ward. You will still have your catheter in and this is to make sure that your bladder is emptying whilst you have no sensation to pass urine. You will stay in hospital an average of two to three days after a caesarean birth, but this does vary.

On the postnatal ward you will be encouraged to walk about as soon as possible, usually around six hours after your surgery or the following morning. Being quickly out of bed helps lessen the risks of blood clots, which are increased with any surgery and to further reduce the risk of blood clots you will be provided with compression stockings and blood thinning drugs for seven days. Your recovery will take longer than that of a vaginal birth and it is important to follow the advice of your midwife and obstetrician. Many women do too much too soon and find that they bleed more heavily and have more pain, so take it easy.

At Home

You may be surprised how well you feel after your surgery, especially if it was straightforward. When you get home though you still have a baby to care for so take it easy, no heavy lifting or housework and try to limit visitors so that you can eat, drink, rest and recover. You’ll have a dressing on your wound and you’ll have been given pain killers to take regularly. Do take those as they help you to move around more, which will speed up your recovery. If your stitches need to be removed a midwife will do this around seven days after your operation. You’ll also be given advice on how to keep your wound clean and dry and how to spot signs of infection. If in doubt though, just call the labour ward or your midwife.

Lesley Gilchrist – Midwife and birth-trauma expert

Lesley is a registered, practising midwife – with both private and NHS experience – as well as joint brand founder of My Expert Midwife, a pre-and-post natal product range which tackles taboos for new and expectant mums. As well as being an expert in the effects and treatment of birth trauma, anxiety and depression, Lesley is a registered hypnobirthing teacher.

More information about Lesley can be found at or on social media:

Twitter: @MyExpertMidwife
Facebook: @MyExpertMidwife
Instagram: @my_expertmidwife