April is C-Section Awareness Month and I’ve been reading a lot of blog rants reacting to these stupid pictures that go around social media along the lines of, “Too posh to push”, “C-sections are for lazy people, stand back and let the natural mamas do the work.” Anyone that agrees with those things is quite simply unintelligent and extremely ignorant and I really hope they never have a section because they will see how wrong they are.
I could argue that I have actually experienced natural birth and section because I was fully dilated and Ollie was half way down when I had a section so I have felt full labour. I got to 7cm on just gas and air and then had pethidine (I had a nap, I’d been in labour for over 48 hours at that point and barely slept) and got to 10cm no problem. I was pushing away and then he turned and the drama began. I would describe Ollie as ‘hanging’ when I was being rushed down to theatre.
I don’t mean to put down natural Mommas, I am absolutely not doing that. However, I can honestly say the pain from my infection was a hundred times worse than my full, long labour. I actually didn’t think labour was that bad. So I can say having experienced aspects of both, a c section is not an easy way out. Particularly one that has complications.
I don’t want to talk too much about the actual section, I want to talk about an aspect that only applies to 3-6% of c-sections Mommas. That is post surgery infections. Nothing could have prepared me for my infection and although I’m writing this in hope of raising awareness of how severe infections can be, I also don’t think I will make a massive difference to anyone that contracts an infection but if it helps a little then it’s worth writing. And it’s worth writing just to shut down all these ignorant people that think we get an easy ride.
So here are some things that nobody tells you about c-section infections. I would like to state that mine was severe, many women have infections and are fine with a course of oral antibiotics.
The Horrendous Pain.
I’m not exaggerating this, almost a year on I can still recall the pain. I could not walk from one side of my kitchen to the other. I was physically crying from the immense pain. I couldn’t get up from lying down. I was waking Dave up in the night to pull me up and take me to the toilet. When I was hospitalised I had a catheter because I could not get out of bed. The midwives were giving me bed baths like I was an old lady.
I can’t even describe how bad the smell was but if I think about it, it comes back to me and I can smell it. It was just poison pouring out of me. I was waking up in puddles of pus. When I needed to go for a number 2 the midwives took me to the toilet and told me to pull the buzzer when I needed to come back. They came back and I said, my catheter has fallen out. I thought I was weeing down my leg. She said no it hasn’t, that’s your infection. I had pus pouring out of my wound.
I left the hospital two days after my section unaware of my infection. I looked in the mirror when I got in the lift and I was disgusted by myself. My belly was massive! I mean bigger than when Ollie was in there. I looked horrible. I didn’t expect to be size 10 straight away but when I was in recovery my stomach was flat again! It swelled up so quickly. I suppose nobody really thinks anything of a post natal momma having a big belly but mine was swelling not big.
Along with the swollen belly my skin was so red and ridiculously sensitive. I was crying when the doctors lifted up my blanket, the slightest movement just triggered this intense pain. At one point when nobody really knew what to do with me, the doctors decided to poke around at my wound to see if I needed more surgery to drain the pus. I needed gas and air for them to touch it. Bear in mind I was in labour and didn’t moan once about pain, the midwives loved me, they were just sitting there drinking coffee. I’ve got a pretty good pain threshold. This was just something else.
The recommended recovery for any type of birth is six weeks but recovery after an infection means district nurses coming to your house every other day to re-dress and clean your wound. I was also on anti-biotics for a week after being discharged and iron tablets and something else, I forget what it was now! Along with having to inject clexane into myself everyday for six weeks. (I couldn’t do it, my partner did it for me.)
The Bond with your Baby.
I was worried that Ollie would forget me because he was only seeing me for a few hours a day. I think the whole experience just made me love Ollie even more because I was really grateful to be alive (I know that sounds dramatic.) I was really glad that I had my two days in hospital with him after the birth because we formed our bond then and I still bonded with him after and he loves me. He was allowed to stay in hospital with me but I thought it was best for Ollie if he stayed at home because I could barely move. He was my favourite little visitor.
They can be fatal. I was close to dying from mine. I was on oxygen at one point, I woke up in the night surrounded by doctors whispering about me and hooking me up to tubes! The first anti biotic actually didn’t work, it took a day or so to get me on the right drugs. I’ve never had so much blood taken, I was being tested constantly to make sure the infection hadn’t reached my blood. They were talking about operating on me to drain the pus. I had all the senior doctors looking at me, not really knowing what to do sometimes.
I’ve looked up c-section infections since and there are actually two types: Celluitis of the wound which causes redness and swelling under the skin and wound abscess which causes redness, tenderness and pus around the incision. I’m not sure what the hell happened to me because I had all the symptoms! Is it possible to have both infections?
If you’re reading this and you have a planned section coming up, don’t worry too much. Infections are significantly more likely to occur in emergency sections and after a long labour. Also remember it is uncommon and does only affect 3-6% of c-section mommas. I don’t want to scare anyone but as c-section awareness month, this is an aspect that I think most people are unaware of so I’m sharing my story to make people see that a c-section is not a wimps way out by any means.
They are also more common in over weight people. I did confuse a lot of doctors actually, they said it shouldn’t have happened to me. One said, “I’m so sorry this happened to you!” The first one to see me said, “OH MY GOD!” when she lifted my blanket up because of how red and swollen I was. And a really nice doctor that was trying to figure out what to do with me said, “You’re not fat!” Meaning, how the hell did this happen to you!
Signs of an infection to look out for.
Pain! Do not ignore severe pain. Discomfort is normal but you should not be in severe pain.
Temperature. I was shivering, wearing a blanket and dressing gown in the summer, but boiling hot to touch.
Swelling. It might be hard to tell if you’re carry baby weight or have swollen. If you’re in doubt get checked.
Redness. If you’re belly looks very red or feels hot, get checked.
Leaking. Any pus or foul smell coming out of the wound… Get checked!
I do not consider myself to be unlucky and I’m not writing this for sympathy, I am writing to make people aware that c-sections are not for wimps! In fact I consider myself to be very lucky. If one person Googles ‘C-Section infection’ and finds this and I encourage them to get checked then it’s worth writing this essay. Thanks for reading! Feel free to share and help people see that C-section Mommas are very strong!