The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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3. Unplanned Cesarean Section
Mom: Michelle McDermott, 28, New York City
Baby: Michael, born July 30, 2007 (McDermott's first child)
The details: Shortly before McDermott's due date, a checkup showed that her cervix was dilated 5 centimeters. Her doctor said she'd probably go into labor soon. Hoping that exercise might move things along, McDermott pulled on her walking shoes. During the next five days, she logged about 8 miles of walking, but two days after her due date, she was still dilated 5 centimeters and her doctor admitted her to the hospital.
McDermott was given Pitocin to induce contractions; however, five hours passed and little happened. "My mom, my husband and my brother and I were sitting around and laughing," she recalls. Things changed when her doctor ruptured her membranes, however. As the fluid drained, the doctor saw that it contained meconium, a substance from the baby's intestines that's a sign of fetal distress. At the same time, McDermott started to feel intense contractions. An epidural helped ease the discomfort, and she labored for two hours but remained dilated only 5 centimeters. Because the baby had a big head and was in distress, her doctor suggested a C-section, and McDermott agreed: "Even though the C-section was unplanned, it was time for him to come out one way or the other."
With her husband by her side in the operating room and a half-dozen family members in the waiting room, McDermott gave birth to a healthy boy. "He was big, and his umbilical cord was tethered twice around his legs," McDermott says. "There was no way he was going to come out on his own."
What she'd do differently: Nothing. "I felt calm and relaxed, and I was completely confident that my doctor and the nurses had everything under control."
What Dr. Gaudet wants you to know about C-sections:
1. You will probably be fully conscious, although if it's an emergency C-section, you may be given general anesthesia.
2. Your partner will be asked to leave the operating room during an emergency C-section. However, during a routine C-section, even one that was unplanned, your partner can usually stay in the room.
3. The C-section incision site can feel quite sore during the first few days after delivering your baby. Your doctor can prescribe pain medication that will be safe for you to take, even if you're breastfeeding.
4. While healing, C-section incision sites can be very itchy or numb. A sticky, clear discharge is typical during the first week or so; redness, a foul smell, yellow discharge or bleeding could indicate a tear or infection and requires a call to the doctor.
5. Intestinal gas and constipation can cause considerable post-op pain. To ease the discomfort, drink plenty of fluids, avoid such gas-producing foods as beans and cabbage and walk around as soon as your doctor gives you the go-ahead. If pain is severe or persistent, ask your doctor about medications that are safe if you're nursing.