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How to Prepare for a Cesarean Without Expecting One

Why Prepare for a Cesarean?

Women planning for a natural childbirth don’t typically also prepare for a cesarean birth. However, most women who’ve had cesareans, while they were pregnant, thought “oh, that won’t happen to me.” Other women may even think that preparing for a cesarean might make a cesarean more likely to happen (which simply isn’t true)… and so they did nothing to prepare.

Ultimately, what we end up with is countless women unprepared and caught off guard when the unexpected happens – a cesarean birth.

This post about how to prepare for a cesarean is written to all women planning a vaginal delivery, so that you’ll be better prepared and ready to cope no matter what happens.

How to Prepare for a Cesarean Without Expecting One

The following are eight things that will help prepare a family for a gentle cesarean… without necessarily expecting one.

Here's how to prepare for a cesarean without expecting one, so that you'll be better prepared and ready to cope no matter what happens.

Tour Your Local Hospital

The first way to prepare for a cesarean is to tour the local hospital. No matter where you’re giving birth, in or out of the hospital, it’s important to know what the birth space will look like, especially if plans change.

Some hospitals allow tours whenever – just stop on by! Others, you may need to call ahead and schedule. Figure out your local hospital’s tour policy and go see what you’re working with.

When taking hospital tours, I’ve always found it helpful to take a friend or loved one. Find someone that will help ask the questions you’ve written down ahead of time (yep, that’s a good idea too) but can also keep things light and fun.

Talk to Your Care Provider

Another way to prepare for a cesarean is to talk to your care provider. If a cesarean should become your next best thing, will your care provider be with you through the whole experience? If not, who will?

Ask your care provider if they have any tips or suggestions for the actual surgery and postpartum. Pick their brain! Your care provider is a paid consultant, so use that to your advantage and let them tell you their thoughts.

If you’re looking for more information on how to talk with your care provider to get good information to ultimately make better decisions, always use the B.R.A.I.N. acronym. It’s an amazing tool!

Here's how to prepare for a cesarean without expecting one, so that you'll be better prepared and ready to cope no matter what happens.

Take a Good Childbirth Class

When looking for a childbirth class, ask the instructor if he or she covers cesareans. Despite the 30% average cesarean rate, most childbirth classes gloss over cesareans or skip the topic entirely. What a disservice!

It’s important to find a class that talks about cesarean births – what to expect and how to cope. Birthing From Within childbirth classes, the method I teach, absolutely covers cesareans. It’s one of my favorite classes to teach!

Explore Local Resources

In my community (and maybe yours too) we have a Tallahassee chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), which is an amazing resource. ICAN is a support group for women planning a cesarean, recovering from a cesarean and/or planning a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).


In this support group you will get all the amazing details on the care providers in town that are supportive, or not, of a particular birth outcome. You can hear birth stories and learn from other women in the community. Do a quick google search and see if there is an ICAN group in your area. If so, thank your lucky stars!

Create a Cesarean Birth Plan

Another way to prepare for a cesarean without expecting one is to create a gentle cesarean birth plan. The best way to approach this is to create a short list of 3-5 things that you would like to have happen if, for whatever reason, a cesarean birth became your next best thing.

If you’re looking for inspiration check out my post on how to to experience a gentle cesarean.

Here's how to prepare for a cesarean without expecting one, so that you'll be better prepared and ready to cope no matter what happens.

Plan for Extra Help

After the average vaginal delivery, women need help at home to ensure that her sole focus is caring for herself and feeding her new baby. With a cesarean, however, things are a bit more challenging. Driving, lifting objects heavier than 5 pounds and walking around are either not allowed, restricted or slow going.

If for whatever reason, a cesarean birth were to become your next best thing, how would you arrange for extra help in the first 4-6 weeks?

Take a moment and brainstorm to see what you come up with. Make a list of 3-5 different solutions for extra help postpartum. There are no wrong answers.  Brainstorm!!

(Remember, parenting cannot be done alone. This may be the first time you’ve ever HAD to ask for help. Asking for help can be a very vulnerable place! But you could do it… if you had to.)

Now that you have your brainstormed list, see if there’s anything you can do NOW to put that contingent plan into action. This might mean calling some friends or family now during pregnancy and asking for potential help during postpartum. See if there’s anything you can do NOW to put this contingent plan into place.

postpartum healing featured

Create a Food Plan

Any new parent, through adoption, vaginal delivery or cesarean, needs to eat… but their ability to feed themselves has dramatically decreased. Start planning during pregnancy to keep yourself alive come postpartum!

Here are my ideas:

  1. Freezer Cooking! I have freezer cooked to prepare for every baby I’ve had, and even when I wasn’t pregnant. It’s such a lifesaver to have a frozen meal in the freezer, ready to go. Check out my posts on freezer cooking here, here and here.
  2. Ask a friend or family member to coordinate a “meal train”. This can easily be done through websites like Take Them A Meal or Meal Train.
  3. Make a list of your favorite take out, fast food or “to go” food places and stick it to the fridge.
  4. Stock up on snacks! There’s some great snack ideas at the bottom of this post.


Postpartum Recovery Must-Haves

Another part of preparing for a cesarean is to familiarize oneself with various postpartum products that will help in the process of healing after a cesarean birth.

Many of these could be ordered via Amazon in the hospital and be delivered by the time you get home. Hooray for free two day shipping! I love Amazon Prime. ( ==> Try Amazon Prime for FREE with a 30-Day Free Trial)


Many women swear by a postpartum girdle, wrap or binder. Belly Bandit makes a popular one, some women just use Spanx and some love their C-Panty.

Note:  If any of these things hurt, or are super uncomfortable, wait a week or two and then try again. It’s important to be patient with our bodies as they heal.


C-Mama Healing Salve

You won’t need this salve in the first month postpartum, but once the incision has healed some you can begin using this salve to help your incision site to heal. Many women have had great results and have small scars! You can use this stuff on closed surgical wounds, inflamed rashes, old scars, stretch marks, burns and for first aid.


Stool Softener

No matter what type of birth you’ve had, I highly recommend a stool softener. Sure you can make sure you stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet with lots of fiber, but let’s be honest. Sometimes, life happens. When life happens, use Colace and have a happy poop instead of a sad poop.



I asked my readers what nursing pillow they preferred following a cesarean birth. The majority said Boppy, but a few said My Breast Friend. Not only did the Boppy help with feeding, but also protected the incision site and held things in place during a cough or sneeze. It seems to be quite the multi-purpose pillow!


Cleaning Caddy

The last thing you might consider for your postpartum recovery is a cleaning caddy. No, this is not so you can easily get some cleaning done. I found these things to be so helpful to have in one or two places around the home to hold things like diapers, wipes, receiving blankets, medications, nasal aspirator, snacks, phone, charger, water, pen, pencil, small notebook, change of clothes for baby, pacifiers, etc. This way you don’t have to get up and travel every time you need something. Because sometimes, by the grace of God, what you need might be in the caddy.

And then one day, when you’re feeling recovered, and only then, you might re-purpose it back to a cleaning caddy. Maybe.


Come What May

There are many things you can do to prepare for a cesarean birth, even if you’re not expecting one.

And remember, by reading this post and doing the proposed exercises you will not somehow make a cesarean birth more likely to happen. What actually will happen is that that you will become more prepared, informed and decided about what would be important to you and your family if a cesarean birth became your next best thing.

All mamas are warriors, no matter how we give birth (or adopt!). My hope is that no matter what comes your way, you’ll be as ready as you can and ROCK your birth.

You got this, ladies!

Leave a Comment

Will you do me a favor and leave a comment? I’d like to know what was most helpful in this article. Or what you would do differently next time. (Or… just say hi. HI!)  Thank you!


Tuesday 12th of March 2019

Thanks so much for this post and your kind wording (ei: the next best thing). I’m preparing to have my 5th coessarian. I had tried very hard for a VBAC with my 2nd, and was very well supported and educated, it just wasn’t a part of my story. I have felt like the 5th time around I’m pretty mentally prepared, but this post gave me some ideas so thank you!

Alicia Owen

Monday 12th of September 2016

Great tips! You are so right: Most women don't even want to think about a c-section, but the sad fact is, they happen! And it's definitely better to be prepared because the recovery is so different from a natural birth!