Mentally preparing for your birth experience can seem daunting at first, especially in the event of a Cesarean. It’s major surgery, after all — a surgery that is often stigmatized unfairly. But while many have trouble maintaining calm before a C-section, or finding peace afterward, there are definite, science-backed ways to do so.
Part of Expectful’s mission is to make sure every pregnant person feels at ease when going into their own birth experience. And considering C-sections account for 31.7% of all births in the US, it’s just as important to be prepared for a Cesarean birth as it is for a vaginal delivery a. Whether it’s scheduled ahead of time, or you simply want to be prepared for a change of plans, here’s how you can emotionally prepare for a C-section delivery and recovery.
Begin to Mentally Prepare for a C-Section and Recovery by Educating Yourself
Few things can be more frightening than having to go into surgery without knowing what to expect. Fortunately, you have the power to get the information you need ahead of time.
Ask your OB / GYN to give you the full rundown of what to expect during a C-section. Check in with the hospital you’ll be delivering at as well to understand the basic protocols.
If you’re working with a midwife and planning to deliver at home or a birth center, ask what to expect in the event of having to transfer into the care of a hospital for a C-section. You can also look into hiring a doula to help ease your fears and keep you informed of your rights as a patient.
Read books and articles from trusted, reputable sources. And don’t forget to ask other parents you know about their own experiences. This knowledge will set the foundation as you begin to mentally prepare for a C-section.
Learn About The Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation
The benefits of meditation have been documented thoroughly for a wide array of applications, including surgery. And while we know meditation can be helpful for pregnancy, delivery, and beyond, it’s important to recognize that there are science-backed reasons to include it in your C-section birth plan as well.
One study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, for example, pointed to the benefit of mindfulness meditation in overcoming fear of a C-section. Those who practiced this type of meditation also used less pain medication and saw a reduced incidence of postpartum depression than those who did not.
Another study revealed that a meditation practice doesn’t even have to be lengthy for it to be effective. In the trial, individuals were given a brief 2.5 day course on mindfulness meditation to help them prepare for their birth (some of which resulted in C-sections). Used as a complementary tool, meditation helped these individuals deal with their pain more effectively, and allowed them to make better choices during their births.
Looking for meditation specific to addressing fears leading up to a C-section or supporting recovery app? Check out Cesarean-specific collections in the Expectful’s Birth Support and Postpartum libraries, or click here to listen to a free sample of Preparing for A Cesarean Birth, which might aid you in staying calm as you bring your child into the world.
Figure Out What Types Of Mindfulness Practice Works Best For You
The beauty of meditation is that you can incorporate it into your life in so many different ways. For some, unguided meditations in which you simply sit still in silence and focus on your breath can be helpful. Hypnotherapy or self-hypnosis is also quite popular in terms of meditation styles. These guided meditations are a bit different, but provide many pregnant people the relief they need to get through their C-sections.
“I used meditation before and after … specifically self-hypnosis guided meditation, telling the cells of my body that I would have an easy surgery, and that my babies would be healthy and strong,” says 38-year-old Jacqui Blue, a filmmaker other hypnotherapist based in Los Angeles. Blue gave birth to twin preemies at 33 weeks, and says she recovered well after her C-section.
People who care less for guided instructions may appreciate practicing mindfulness with some relaxing music or meditative soundscapes. This has actually proven to help reduce post-operative pain and can help you mentally prepare for a C-section during pregnancy by managing general prenatal stress and anxiety.
Listen To Other Parents’ C-Section Experiences
Not everyone is sold on the powers of meditation for a positive cesarean birth experience and recovery. Sometimes what’s really helpful is knowing how it actually helped someone who’s been there.
When 41-year-old Ivette Montejo was pregnant with her first baby, she only planned and prepared for having a vaginal birth. Instead, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia which led to a lengthy induction that resulted in a C-section.
“It was highly stressful,” says Montejo. “I knew that if I were to have kids again, I would try to be better prepared.”
Just prior to her son’s first birthday, she became pregnant again. She had already begun a meditation practice due to work stress, which helped her once it was time to deliver her second child.
“With my second planned c-section, I felt much more peaceful,” says Montejo, who adds that this time she felt she had more control over her body. She says her practice allowed her to stay calm and maintain her blood pressure at normal levels.
Lauren Tingley, a teacher in Red Bluff, California, had also initially planned for a vaginal birth. But with her baby stuck in breech position, she realized she would likely have a Cesarean.
“I had severe anxiety thinking about what the surgery and recovery process would be like. I was especially emotional about not being able to spend time with my baby right after delivery, ”says Tingley. While she had the option to schedule a c-section, she opted against it and labored naturally, using meditation for pain management until it was time for surgery.
“During recovery, my heart rate was high and my blood pressure was not regulated so they would not allow me to see my baby,” she says. “(Here) I used meditation to keep calm, and shortly after I was released to my room to reunite with my baby and husband.”
Get Your Birthing Partner Involved
Julie Arvan, a postpartum doula and owner of Nesting Days, recommends not only meditating solo, but also getting your birth partner involved. Its important for birth partners to mentally prepare for a c-section so they can support you in the OR and during recovery.
“Breathing in and out together, holding hands, finding each other’s eyes and locking in are all great additional techniques,” says Arvan. And for those birthing with a romantic partner, Arvan says these techniques also have the added benefit of bringing couples closer together.
Expectful’s app features a number of guided meditations written for couples to listen to together. There are even meditations for the postpartum days when feelings may be strained due to lack of sleep and new responsibilities, including one on Managing Lack of Intimacy and Being Present In Support Of Others.
Commit To Your Practice In The Long Run
It might become difficult to make the time for yourself once your new baby is here, but giving yourself emotional support after c-section is just as important. Not only are you dealing with fluctuating hormones, you’re also caring for your body, including a fresh scar. This can be difficult territory to manage for anyone.
“I’ve worked with many C-section moms and find mindful meditation a valuable tool preparing for the big day and also a great way of coping with the discomfort following surgery,” says Arvan. “Meditation can really reshape how our bodies respond to stress and act as a buffer as we go through difficult experiences. By relaxing our mind, our bodies create more oxytocin hormones which can aid in a quicker recovery. “
Jillian Amodio, a certified yoga and meditation teacher, says she experienced two c-sections, the first of which was unplanned and left her feeling as though her body had “failed.”
“I suffered postpartum depression with both of my children and my meditation practice was an essential part in recovery,” says Amodio, who also runs the Moms for Mental Health support group.
Armed with her meditation practice, Amodio says she acknowledged her postpartum pain as part of her journey, focusing on her breath and visualization techniques to guide her through it.
“Not only did meditation recenter my focus, it also empowered me to speak up and to not suffer as much internally as I did the first time around,” says Amodio, who is based in Annapolis, Maryland. She thanks meditation for allowing her to give herself the time and space to heal. “It encouraged me to show myself grace and compassion.”
Whether you’re going into your third planned cesarean or you’re merely wanting to be mentally prepared for a C-section and recovery “just in case”, Expectful has your back. Make sure to download the app, start a free trial, and scroll through the Cesarean meditations for yourself and your birth team to help ease your fears and keep you calm into this next chapter of your life.