By Joanne Poskitt and Rachel Gardner

Sometimes emergency c-sections are needed if the labour isn’t going as quickly as it might, or if there are any concerns regarding mum or baby’s condition.

If a caesarean birth is needed because labour has slowed down then you will have some time to come to terms with this new change and talk things through with the doctors, midwives and your partner.  It is really important to talk at this time and make sure that all your partners and your questions are answered so that you both know what is going to happen.

If there is more of an emergency because either your partner or your baby is distressed then things will happen much more quickly.  The anaesthetic will be given via an epidural, if your partner already has one, or could be a one-off spinal injection with a very powerful painkiller that works the same as an epidural to numb from under the breast to the toes. This means your partner will be awake and you can be with her during the procedure, Alternatively it might be that she has a general anesthetic, which will mean she is asleep for the procedure.

We know that at this time a big factor in whether this event is traumatic is the level of communication that Mum and Dad get from staff.  Ask questions, ask a midwife or doctor what is happening and why.  Ask to be kept updated, keep asking if necessary.

What happens next

Epidural anaesthetic

Your partner will be prepped for theatre, and she will need to sign a consent form.  Midwives will place a cannula in Mum’s arm and run through fluids to keep her hydrated and a catheter will be placed to empty her bladder.

You will both be taken down to theatre and you will be shown where to get changed into scrubs gear.  Staff will then be waiting to escort you into theatre.  If you are not offered t,o attend make sure you let staff know that you and your partner wish for you to be there with her and could that be arranged.

Theatre team three nurses, two doctors, an aneasthetist and his support staff and a paediatric doctor will be there plus usually two midwives.  A screen will be placed up and you will sit next to your partner’s head behind the screen.   Mum will have a blood pressure cuff on her arm and electrodes on her chest or back with a probe on her finger to monitor oxygen levels.  The anaesthetist checks all these levels.  The anaesthetist checks when Mum has the correct level of drugs and gives the go ahead for the surgery to begin.  The anaesthetist will be constantly giving the right level of drugs to your partner and will be talking to you both, giving you reassurance that all is well.

When your baby is born via caesarean birth the doctor will pass baby to your midwife after the cord is clamped.  You and your partner will then be shown your baby while the midwife is wrapping her up to keep warm. Baby will be then given to your partner or yourself for some skin to skin, ensuring that baby and parent are kept warm with blankets.

The placenta is then removed and doctors will do a check that there is no worrying bleeding before finishing the surgery and suturing.

Once surgery is completed you will all be transferred into recovery then once stable your family will go up to the ward.  Some hospitals have room so that Dads can stay with their partner and baby, but in some hospitals there just isn’t room to make this a standard policy.  Be sure that you check so that you and your partner can be prepared if you do have to go home.  A lot of Dads have told us that being made to go home whilst their partner and baby stayed in hospital was a very negative experience, which is understandable, but if you do have to ensure that you get plenty of rest so you can be their for your new family in the morning when your partner will really need your support.

General anaesthetic

If your partner has had a general anaesthetic your baby will be given to you as soon as possible and the family reunited once mum has recovered from her general anaesthetic.

Staff should keep you updated as to what is happening to help

General anaesethtics do take time to recover from so don’t worry if your partner is groggy and a confused when she wakes up.  Your job is to reassure her as much as you. Sometimes Mum’s noses may itch but it’s nothing to worry about, its normal. It’s just the morphine.

Your partner will have an oxygen mask on or nasal probes.  She will be able to eat and drink a few hours after waking, she will also still have a catheter in.

There will be a dressing on her wound that staff will keep checking.  She will usually be up and walking around the next day and probably have stockings on for 6 weeks.  Mum will also have a blood thinning injection sometimes for a few days sometimes for longer depends on history and BMI etc.  Mum can have baths and showers as normal. She won’t be able to drive until she can do a safe emergency stop.