If your partner is scheduled to have an elective caesarean they should receive a date in advance. They will have a pre-op appointment where they’ll be able to ask questions – you can attend this too, or help your partner to make a list of questions in advance.
If they need an emergency caesarean, this might be decided during labour, or before labour starts if either your partner or your baby are having health problems. Emergency caesareans do not always have to be done immediately, but there will be some urgency, so you may see lots of staff helping to prepare your partner for theatre. Some women feel frightened and overwhelmed so it’s important to stay calm and offer lots of reassurance.
While your partner is taken to theatre, you’ll be asked to change into scrubs before you can join her. If she’s having a spinal block or epidural, you may need to wait outside until this is working – this is usually quick, but might take a little while if they are having difficulty getting it in.
If your partner needs a general anaesthetic, you won’t be able to be present during the surgery. You will wait in the recovery area and the team will bring the baby to you as soon as they can, as long as they are well. The wait can be frightening, but the team will take excellent care of your partner and the baby.
Theatre can seem scary when you first go in. There will be a screen in place so you can’t see the surgery happening. Your partner will be lying on a table and will have a drip into a vein in their hand or arm, giving them fluids and medication. There will also be wires stuck to their chest, and a cuff on their arm to monitor blood pressure. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, these things are just used to make sure she is coping well during the procedure. Your partner will also have a catheter inserted to collect her urine during the procedure and afterwards, which will be removed later. The team will check that the anaesthetic is working before they start.
Your partner may shiver a lot during the procedure. She may also feel nauseous or be sick. The anaesthetist will be there with her, giving her medications to keep her feeling well. She might be drowsy or dizzy because of the medications and the procedure itself, so don’t be alarmed if she seems off – the anaesthetist will be monitoring her carefully for signs of any problems.
Your baby will be born quickly after the surgery starts, usually within ten minutes, but the whole procedure will take around an hour.
You can choose to watch your baby being born if you wish, ask the team to let you know when it’s time to look, but it’s probably best avoided if you are squeamish!
If you want to cut the cord or announce your baby’s sex to your partner, ask the staff – it’s usually possible, unless your partner or baby need urgent care. If your baby needs some help to take their first breath or other urgent care, they’ll be taken over to a table so the team can take care of them. When they are stable you’ll be able to go over and see them, and take a photo for your partner.
Depending on the circumstances, your baby may be handed straight to your partner after birth. If she is not well enough, the baby may be given to you to hold – the midwife will help you if you’re not used to holding babies.
After the baby is born, they will remove your wife’s placenta and then carefully suture (stitch) her uterus and tummy closed. If your partner was labouring before the caesarean, she may also need stitches in her perineum (the area between the vagina and rectum) to repair any cuts or tears. Your partner will not to be able to feel any of this because of the spinal anaesthetic.
After a caesarean, your partner will be taken to the recovery area or back to the ward – if your baby is well, they will stay with her.
Your partner may need strong pain relief and she will struggle to move much on the first day, especially if she has had a spinal anaesthetic, as it will take some time for this to wear off.
Your partner should be able to get up and move around carefully by the following morning. Her catheter will be removed and she will be encouraged to stay mobile but to take things gently. She will usually be able to go home within 48 hours, but if she or the baby need additional care they might need to stay a bit longer. Once you do go home, she will need to take it very easy for a few weeks, so your support and help with the baby will be more important than ever. Read more about recovery from a caesarean.