Preparing for a scheduled C-section and have no clue what to pack? Simplify your hospital stay and recovery with this hospital bag checklist, and discover easy ways to recover from surgery!
Preparing For A Scheduled C-Section
Whether you’ve opted to have an elective C-section, or you’ve been surprised with the need for one, preparing for a C-section can make you a little apprehensive. You might have a general idea of what you need for a vaginal birth, but when you are prepping for a C-section, you’re also prepping for surgery.
It’s not as scary as it seems, however, and there are simple things to bring with you to make your surgery and adjusting to your new baby that much easier!
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What To Do The Night Before Your C-Section
Most likely, the day before your C-section, you will need to arrive at the hospital (or a separate check-in destination) to have blood drawn and to complete paperwork. This paperwork ensures that you understand the risks of your C-section surgery, and will serve as your consent to the operation.
The night before your C-section, be sure to follow the pre-op instructions your doctor gives you. This will likely include refraining from eating or drinking for 8-12 hours (although some doctors allow clear juices and water – NO RED LIQUIDS).
Most scheduled C-sections are performed a week before the mother’s due date. So if your scheduled C-section was a bit of a surprise to you, and you have yet to install your baby’s car seat, have your spouse or partner install it and ensure it’s secure. Ideally, this important duty will have been completed 1-2 months before your due date, but some parents prefer to procrastinate and that’s why I’ve included it here ;).
You should also shower the night before your C-section using an antibacterial soap like Cetaphil Gentle Antibacterial Bar. While showering, do not shave your pubic area or stomach. By doing so, you’ll create small nicks in the skin that are more susceptible to infection.
If you choose to shave, do so 4-5 days ahead of your C-section. If your pubic hair needs to be removed or trimmed, a nurse will take care of that for you while you are on the table before the doctor begins the surgery.
Things To Do The Night Before Your C-Section RECAP:
- Go over pre-op instructions given to you by your doctor
- Shower the night before your surgery using antibacterial soap
- Do NOT shave your pubic area or anywhere else
- Stop eating, drinking, and smoking after midnight (or as your pre-op instructions state)
- Ensure the car seat is installed and secure
What To Remember The Morning Before Your C-Section
- Grab your packed bag and place it in the car
- Refrain from wearing makeup or deodorant
- Dress in light, comfortable clothes
You should also plan to leave the house 20 minutes earlier than you usually would in case there is heavy traffic, an accident on the way to the hospital, or you need to turn back around and grab a phone charger you forget to stuff in your hospital bag!
C-Section Hospital Bag Checklist: Packing List For A Scheduled C-Section
- I.D. Cards & Insurance Cards
If this is your first baby, you never know if your husband or partner might faint and need some medical attention as well. Bring insurance and I.D. cards for both of you!
Clothing For Mom
- Soft ‘granny panties’
- Soft slippers (wear these to the hospital)
- Flip flops (to shower in after surgery)
- Soft robe
- Long dress (to the knees) OR nursing tank and highwaisted loose pants.
- Abdominal wrap support
When it comes to packing clothing, you want to focus on bringing soft, loose clothing with you. A loose T-shirt style dress that hangs down to your knees would be perfect for layering under a robe and would allow your nurse or doctor to check your incision and change our the dressings easily. Or you could choose to wear high waisted loose pants paired with a long-sleeve cardigan and nursing tank for easier breastfeeding. High-waisted pants (NOT JEANS) are easier on your incision because they rub less on the incision area.
To minimize the weight of your hospital bag and the number of items you’re packing, wear the outfit you will be sporting after the surgery to the hospital. It’s one less thing you have to bring with you!
When it comes to underwear, the hospital will provide you with disposable soft cotton panties, paired with heavy menstrual pads to help with bleeding.
Most of your C-section hospital bag will consist of toiletries – these will make your stay and your recovery easier and more comfortable.
- Hairbrush and hair ties (wrap these around the handle of your hairbrush to keep track of
- Mini travel case with shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
- Lip balm
- Glasses (if you wear them, as sitting up to look in a mirror to insert contacts can be tricky
- after surgery)
- Dry shampoo
- Mouthwash (because your mouth feels gross after surgery!)
- Heavy pads (see below)
- Phone charger (minimum of 6 ft. cord to reach the nearest plug without you having to get
Food and Drinks
- Cranberry juice
- High-fiber snacks (some easy portable snacks include pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, almonds, and sunflower seeds)
Cranberry juice can help prevent UTI’s (urinary tract infections). These aren’t entirely common when using a catheter during C-section surgery and recovery but it can happen. Packing some cranberry juice to drink after surgery can be a great way to combat a possible UTI – but be sure to clear it with your doctor beforehand as cranberry juice is red.
Because pooping is so difficult after surgery, your doctor will likely give you medication like colace to help move things along. You can also bring some high-fiber snacks with you (or choose some from the hospital kitchen) to help encourage your bowels to do their thang.
You will not be able to leave the hospital until you poop, BTW.
- Nipple cream
- Nipple pads
- Nipple shield
- Nursing cover*
- Nursing pillow
*If the idea of breastfeeding in the hospital in front of nurses and hospital staff makes you nervous, you may also want to grab a breastfeeding cover to bring with you. As an experienced mother, I can tell you that it’s really just frustrating to work around. With all the questions you’ll have for the lactation consultant, a cover will just get in the way.
If you bring along a nursing pillow like the Boppy, you can easily loop the pillow through the handles of your hospital bag without having to carry it separately or take up space in your bag.
Should breastfeeding fail, the hospital will have disposable premixed formula bottles ready for you to use, so there’s no need to pack bottles.
For The Baby
- 3 Long-sleeve side-snap shirts
- 2 Pairs of baby socks
- Newborn diapers
- Vaseline and gauze (for a circumcised boy)
- 2 newborn pacifiers
When it comes to formula and diapers, be sure to call your insurance company ahead to see if they cover these items. Depending on your plan and coverage, the hospital may charge you for taking extra diapers and formula while you are in the hospital. It doesn’t seem fair, but knowing ahead of time so you can pack these necessities can save you some serious cash.
If you choose to circumcise your baby boy, the hospital will likely provide you with some Vaseline and gauze to help protect your baby’s penis. When you get ready to leave the hospital, having these two necessities on hand can really help with a last-minute diaper change (I had his happen with both of my boys).
For Your Partner
- $5-10 cash for vending machine snacks
- Phone charger
- Pajamas (if your spouse is staying overnight with you)
- Travel toothbrush
If your husband or partner will be staying with you overnight for the first night or two, pack lightly for him. The hospital will lay out a couch bed for him if one is available, and provide him with a pillow and blanket.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do I Need To Take To The Hospital For C-Section?
Bring along your packed hospital bag, any papers your doctor has requested.
How Long Do You Have To Stay In The Hospital After C-Section?
Typically, your hospital stay will last 3 days (including the day your surgery is performed). This is one day longer than vaginal births, to ensure that you are recovering well from the birth and there are no signs of infection.
Do They Take Out Your Organs Before C-Section?
More often than not, your organs will be moved aside so that your doctor can see adequately. Your doctor will likely not need to remove your organs from your body unless an organ is injured during the surgery and needs attention.
Remember that your doctor will be making an incision about 4-6 inches long through which to work, and that’s hardly enough space to be removing organs and then placing them back all while giving birth to your baby, so don’t believe the fear mongerers!
Do You Need Maternity Pads After C-Section?
Yes! You won’t require frozen padsicles like a mother who has experienced vaginal birth would, but you will need heavy duty pads for residual bleeding after surgery.
You may even bleed more after a C-section versus a vaginal birth. This is because a majority of the blood gets pushed out during a vaginal birth, whereas only a minimal amount of blood is removed during surgery.
What Can You Eat Before A C-Section?
Most likely, your doctor will give you a cut-off time for eating and drinking prior to surgery. These times may be different from each other (meaning you may be able to eat until 8:00 p.m. but allowed to drink until midnight) and vary depending on the time your surgery is scheduled.
Foods your doctor will likely okay include:
- clear juices and water
- light soups (like chicken noodle)
- lightly seasoned chicken
No red juices or foods should be ingested prior to your surgery. The reason for this is simple – the red additives from the food and drink may discolor your urine following surgery and may represent blood to your attending nurse or doctor. Also, candy and gum should be avoided the day prior to surgery.
What Happens Prior To A C-Section?
On the day of your surgery, you will be required to check in in the Labor & Delivery wing of your hospital. Your check-in time will most likely occur 2 hours prior to your surgery time. A nurse will provide you with a gown, socks, and a hair net to change into. She will also go through a series of questions to determine the last meal and time you ate, go through your medical history, ask about previous miscarriages or losses you’ve experienced.
An IV will be inserted to ensure you receive fluids and to administer any medication you may need (like a sedative or antibiotics). A final ultrasound may also be performed to determine your baby’s projected weight, health, and to see if the baby is breech.
After all of this, you will sit in a hospital bed and wait with your spouse or partner until it’s time. Your doctor will probably schedule more than just one surgery that day, so you may hear him or her making rounds in the Labor & Delivery wing as they visit each patient and see if they have questions. Some women may be having surgery like you, while some women are actively going into labor and prepping for a vaginal birth around you. Often, doctors schedule a few surgeries in a day so they can get the most work done while they are at the hospital.
Will I Feel Anything During The C-Section?
Before the procedure, your doctor will give you a spinal block – anesthesia is injected into your spinal fluid below the spinal column, and numbs your body from your abdomen to your feet.
Once you are numb, a nurse will lift one of your legs, move it to the side, and insert a catheter. You should not feel anything but pressure, if that.
Will I Be Able To See Anything During The C-Section?
After anesthesia has been administered, a solid drape will be placed at the top of your abdomen, blocking your view. Your arms will likely be restrained at the wrist as a safety precaution.
When it’s time for your doctor to deliver your baby’s head, they may give you a mirror to watch the birth of your newborn.
How Long Does A Scheduled C-Section Take?
You can expect to be in the operating room for about 1.5-2 hours. This includes the time it takes to give a spinal block (local anesthesia that prevents you from feeling the incision or surgery), the delivery of your baby, and the time it takes your doctor to stitch your uterus and pelvic incision back together.
Overall, only 10-20 minutes of this time accounts for the actual delivery of your baby, while another 45 minutes will account for the time your doctor needs to stitch everything back together (like your uterus). The other 30-45 minutes will be spent waiting for the doctor to scrub in and say hello to you, ensure you are sedated and anesthetized properly for the procedure, and attend to your sweet newborn.
How Long Does The Pain Last After A C-Section?
Ideally, you will want to discuss pain management with your doctor prior to the procedure – he or she will likely bring it up at your final in-office checkup. Depending on your medical history and pain tolerance, your doctor can give you appropriate options to help manage your pain – after all, you will be having major abdominal surgery and can certainly expect pain from it. Oftentimes, your doctor will prescribe a mild pain reliever along with ibuprofen.
Pain from a c-section can last up to a week, and while medication can help alleviate it, certain motions or activities can prolong this pain.
Will I Be Able To Hold My Baby After A C-Section?
Yes and no.
Immediately after your baby is welcomed into the world, they will be weighed, measured, and checked out. A nurse will likely hand your baby to your spouse or partner, who can bring them over to you so you can see them.
Have your spouse place your baby’s cheek against your cheek for some immediate skin-to-skin contact. If you are calm enough, a nurse may even loosen the straps on one of your hands so you can touch your baby briefly.
Following the procedure, you will be moved from the operating table to a mobile hospital bed, and you and baby will both be moved into a recovery room located close to the operating room. You will be able to hold your baby once you are in the recovery ward, and you will most likely be able to try breastfeeding as well!
Recovering From A Scheduled C-Section
After the anesthesia has worn off in the recovery ward, you will be moved into a room that you may or may not have to share with another postpartum mother.
Compression socks will be placed on your legs to prevent blood clots following the surgery.
A nurse will also push on your abdomen hourly to encourage bleeding and help shrink your uterus.
Be sure to get up, with help, as soon as you feel you are able (most likely on the second day), and start walking. Your doctor will require that you keep your baby in the portable crib, but you can easily take them for a walk around the halls and say hello to some of the other moms in the hospital. Walking helps reduce blood clots and speeds up the healing process! Start out slowly while you are still in the hospital, maybe just doing a quick 5-minute walk around to start, and work your way up to 20-30 minute walks once you are home from the hospital.
When Can I Eat After My C-Section?
You can usually eat as soon as you feel ready!
Post-Op C-Section Precautions To Take After Coming Home
Here are some special precautions to take while healing from your C-section:
- You will not be able to drive for two weeks following the surgery.
- Avoid any heavy lifting (even removing the car seat with your baby from the car)
- Keep your incision clean and dry – watch out for signs of infection
- Take Colace religiously – you will not be able to push during a bowel movement because of your incision
Have you had a c-section before? Are you currently planning on having a c-section? What did you pack in your hospital bag? Let us know in the comments!
This article was written by the talented Corinne from Slay at Home Mother, who has had 2 c-sections! She’s a master DIY-er and home decor expert, (though if you ask her, she’s too modest to admit it). Check out her feed on Instagram and give her a follow on Pinterest or Youtube. She’s grown a huge following from sharing her inspirational DIY projects and budget-friendly home improvement ideas with other moms around the world!
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