Birth is a naturally worrying time for the dad-to-be, but often an area overlooked is what happens if the mum of your baby or partner has a caesarean. C-section advice for fathers, in addition to the information available for mums, is important. With the right knowledge and insight, you’ll be able to navigate this experience with confidence and be able to offer the best support to the mother of your child.
The Bloss C-section guide for dads
In our C-section guide for dads we cover the most important C-section advice for fathers, from what to do in the delivery room to when you can safely have sex again.
Before you go into hospital for the C-section, dads can help by making sure they know their way around mum and baby’s hospital bag. You need to know what baby’s first outfit will be and you’ll need to know your mittens from your booties. Also make sure you have the telephone numbers of everyone in your phone that your partner wants to notify, as it’ll probably be you making the calls.
Why is a C-section happening?
C-sections are either planned or emergency in nature. Planned caesareans happen for many reasons. Medical reasons include placenta praevia and certain types of twins. Elective caesareans also take place for multiple reasons, such as a previous traumatic birth. These C-sections are usually calm and well planned affairs that you know about and can pack a bag and turn up for, all set.
Emergency caesareans are those which become necessary after a woman has already been labouring. Again there are multiple reasons why emergency caesareans are necessary. Despite the label ‘emergency’, the vast majority can still take place in a calm environment with mum receiving a spinal block, ensuring she is conscious for the procedure. Only rarely does an emergency C-section require a general anaesthetic in order to get the baby out very quickly.
What does the dad do during a C-section?
When you pictured your partner giving birth, you probably envisaged helping them with breathing, physically supporting them, and sharing words of encouragement. The good news is that during most caesarean sections, there’s plenty that the dad can still do to support the mum-to-be. You are still needed for support.
It’s useful to know how you can offer this, and what will be happening.
C-sections take place in an operating theatre and there will be a team of medical professionals each with different roles to play. This environment can be overwhelming, so be prepared. As birth partner, you will be given some surgical scrubs and usually a hair covering, and also coverings for your feet. You’ll be shown how to wash your hands.
You will usually then be brought into the theatre to sit on a stool alongside the mum’s head. You can hold her hand and reassure her in much the same way as during a vaginal birth from this point. It’s important to be your partner’s advocate as she will probably feel vulnerable and worried.
There will be a fabric screen pinned up over the woman’s belly so that you can’t directly see the action. However, be prepared that you may at times glimpse blood and amniotic fluid. There will be quite a lot of noise, mostly from the suction pipe that is used during the operation. The anaesthetist will also be close to the woman’s head, and will often chat with you both.
In just about 15-20 minutes from the start, often less, the baby will be born. The baby may be lifted up over the screen for you both to see. You may be asked if you want to cut the cord. Be aware that if you do, you will probably see more of the surgical field.
Once baby has been checked, they’ll be brought to you and the birthing mum. Mum will be on her back and you can help by enabling her to get a good view of her newborn. Whilst mum is stitched up and the operation completed, if possible, you will be the one to hold the baby. Once your partner is back into recovery she will be helped to sit up slightly and will be able to hold the baby.
It takes several hours for the effects of the spinal block or epidural to wear off, so you’ll need to be on hand to support mum as she experiences skin-to-skin and maybe tries to breastfeed.
What can a dad do after a C-section?
Caesarean sections are major surgery. It takes time to recover and this can be hard with a newborn in the mix. Driving will not be possible for the first six weeks, at least, and the mum will need help lifting her baby, especially in the early days.
The best C-section advice for fathers is to be patient and supportive. This time can be hard.
In hospital, and at home afterwards, reassure mum that she is doing really well and that recovery will take time. Ask what you can do to help and empathise that she may not have had the birth experience and the early days that she had hoped for with her newborn.
So, what sort of things can you do to help?
- Change nappies
- Keep track of your partner’s pain relief and bring them to her with water
- Lift the baby and pass him to mum for feeds
- Work on your own bond with baby, having skin to skin contact
- Help your partner to shower and dress, reassuring her about her post-section body
- Drive mum and baby to medical appointments and places she wants to go
- Take on more housework, meal preparation and shopping, or arrange for someone else to come and help, e.g. a cleaner or family member. Your partner especially shouldn’t be vacuuming.
- Always carry the car seat! Indeed, lift or carry anything heavier than the newborn!
- Put up the stroller and lift it in and out of the car, and push it if mum would like.
When can you have sex after a C-section?
Physical recovery and emotional readiness need to be considered. Your partner may be physically ready to have sex again after about six weeks following her post-natal check. However, this is an enormously personal decision and your partner needs to feel ready.
Pregnancy, birth and a C-section change a woman’s body and she may need extra reassurance to feel comfortable to resume sex. Additionally, having a newborn is all-consuming and tiring, and adjusting to the change can mean sex is off the agenda for a while yet. Don’t pressurise your partner but do communicate. Ensure you both understand each other’s concerns.
Dads and birth partners are hugely important during and after the c-section. Don’t underestimate the importance of your role. For further information, have a read of our other articles on birth preparation and looking after baby.