Partners Support when c Section is Required

Most women wish to have a natural birth but the process of having a baby is not always straightforward and complications can mean that doctors will recommend that a Caesarean section is performed. Despite the fact that c-sections are routine operations that doctors perform every day, they do still constitute major surgery and it’s important that the expectant mum is given full support by her birth partner and/or other family members.

Providing support prior to the operation:

In most cases the decision to perform a c-section will follow on from examinations and scans that have revealed that the baby is either in a breach position or is in some state of distress within the womb. Consent will be required in order for the c-section to be performed and, as the birth partner, your first role is to be there for your wife or girlfriend to help them consider the options and make an informed decision.

It may be a big shock to be told that a c-section is required or recommended and the expectant mum may not be in a great position to consider the options if she is suffering contraction pains and is tired from lack of sleep. Make sure that you are by her side and that you offer support and portray a sense of strength and calmness. Talk with her about what the doctors and midwives have said and ask her what her initial thoughts are on what is being proposed.

It is likely that the hospital will arrange for the performing surgeon to speak to the expectant mum. This is important in providing reassurance about what’s involved with the operation and the doctor should highlight any risks associated with such a procedure. Prior to this meeting, chat with your partner about what questions she might have and then help her to ask these questions when the doctor arrives. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor whether there are any common questions that couples ask that you haven’t thought of as your brain may be somewhat addled by the drama that has been unfolding in your life!

Providing support during the operation:

Assuming that the expectant mum has signed the consent forms, you will be scheduled for a slot in the operating theatre. There can be quite a long wait before getting a slot, particularly if higher priority emergency cases emerge so try to help your wife to relax as much as possible in the lead up.

When time does come for the operation, you will be asked to change into hospital scrubs and then you will be guided to a waiting area whilst the doctor administers the local anesthetic. Once the anesthetic has been successfully applied, you will be prompted to take your place by your partner’s side. You will be provided with a stool or chair to sit on and a screen will have been erected to prevent you or your partner from seeing what the doctors are doing.

Your main task is just to be there for your partner and to be a reassuring presence. Even if you are feeling anxious about the risks of the operation, try not to let this show and focus on helping your wife/girlfriend to get through the operation. Hopefully within a few minutes the doctor will lift up a baby for both of you to see!

Support immediately after the operation:

As already mentioned, although a routine procedure, a c-section is a major operation. In the immediate aftermath, the mum will be wheeled through to a recovery room and will be attended to by a midwife. The baby will be brought through and placed next to the mum for skin to skin contact. Ideally, the baby should also immediately suckle from the mum. However, in the aftermath of the c-section, the mum may be quite woozy (particularly from the effects of morphine) and may not immediately feel well enough to nurse the baby.

If this is the case, then you may find that you are charged with holding the baby until your wife starts to feel a little stronger. It can be a little daunting to be handed this fragile-looking bundle but hopefully it will feel like a magical moment. However, bear in mind that your wife may feel emotional about the fact that she has given birth but doesn’t feel well enough to hold her baby. Make sure that you talk to her, show her the baby, and tell her how beautiful he/she is and how proud you are that she has achieved to bring your baby into the world.

You may also find that you need to run round and do a few things whilst your wife recovers. These may include phoning relatives to pass on the good news. This is quite an important task as it’s likely that relatives will have been anxiously awaiting news and may have been very worried about the potential for the operation to go wrong. You may also have to liaise with hospital staff to try to locate clothes and other personal items for your wife.

Ongoing support in the weeks following the operation:

With any birth, there will be a period of recovery before the woman is back at full health. This is especially the case where a c-section has been performed. The wound will have stitches and the woman will be advised not to do any heavy lifting and will not be allowed to drive. They may also have swollen ankles and/or may be suffering from a low blood count brought on from a loss of blood during the operation or in the immediate aftermath.

You will therefore have to act as chauffeur and house help, as well as proving help in changing the baby and feeding it if you’re using formula or expressed breast milk. It’s important that mum gets as much rest as possible, so if you can take turns at looking after the baby then this will help speed up her recovery. You should also make sure that your wife takes any medications that have been prescribed, and can help by doing the cooking.

These days most men are able to take paternity leave. The number of days allowed varies by country but can be a great way of bonding with the baby but also of helping your wife in those difficult early days. It will also give you the opportunity to take care of some administrative tasks such as registering the birth with your local registration office.

Hopefully, by providing steadfast support during what is quite an emotional and challenging experience, you will strengthen your relationship and will be on a great footing to bring up a happy healthy much loved baby!