TLDR: Around 30% of women will give birth via Cesarean delivery, but not everyone is prepared for the major surgery. Whether your C-section is planned or unexpected, we have mindfulness meditation methods that can help you get into the right mental space and feel good about your birth experience—before, during, and beyond.
Mentally preparing for your birth experience can be a lot to take on, especially in the event of a C-section. It’s major surgery, after all. Whether you choose to have one or you end up having one unexpectedly, you might have trouble staying calm before surgery—and you may struggle to find peace afterward, especially if it was an emergency decision. But there are ways to prepare yourself mentally for whatever path your delivery might take.
C-sections account for 32% of all births in the US1 , so it’s just as important to be prepared for one as it is to be ready for a vaginal delivery. Even if you’re sure about your birth plan, it’s good to acknowledge that things can happen and be ready for a C-section, just in case.
“It's a great idea to be prepared for both vaginal and Cesarean delivery as Cesarean is quite common,” Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, the senior medical director with Babyscripts2 , says. “Sometimes it is planned and sometimes it is not—and may even be an emergency.”
Whether it’s scheduled ahead of time, or you simply want to be prepared for a change of plans, here’s how you can emotionally prepare for a C-section delivery and recovery.
Educate Yourself Before a C-Section
It can be scary to go into surgery without knowing what to expect. But you can do research ahead of time. Dr. Demosthenes says, “For those people who have not done any reading, watched any videos, or had any preparation for C-section, it may be kind of scary. For those who have had some exposure through reading, watching videos, or attending childbirth classes, it will help.”
Ask your ob-gyn to give you the full rundown of what to expect during a C-section. Check in with the hospital where you’ll be delivering as well to understand the basic protocols. Ask all the questions you have—about skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, how you’ll physically recover in the hospital and at home, as well as anything else that’s on your mind.
If you’re working with a midwife and planning to deliver at home or a birth center, ask what to expect in the event of having to transfer into the care of a hospital for a C-section. You can also look into hiring a doula to help ease your fears and keep you informed of your rights as a patient.
You can also ask other parents you know about their own experiences. This knowledge will set the foundation as you begin to mentally prepare yourself for a C-section.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation with a C-Section?
The benefits of meditation3 have been documented to help calm the mind in a variety of scenarios, and these can be applied to surgery4 . And while we know meditation can be helpful for pregnancy, delivery and beyond, there are also evidence-backed reasons to include it in your C-section birth plan as well.
One study, for example, points to how mindfulness meditation helped pregnant women overcome the fear of pain associated with childbirth5 . Those who practiced this type of meditation also used less pain medication and saw a reduced incidence of postpartum depression than those who didn’t.
What type of mindfulness works for you?
The beauty of meditation is that you can incorporate it into your life in so many different ways. For some, unguided meditations in which you simply sit still in silence and focus on your breath can be helpful. Hypnotherapy or self-hypnosis are also popular meditation styles. These guided meditations are a bit different, but provide many pregnant women the relief they need to get through their C-sections.
“I used meditation before and after, specifically self-hypnosis guided meditation, telling the cells of my body that I would have an easy surgery and that my babies would be healthy and strong,” says 38-year-old Jacqui Blue, a filmmaker and hypnotherapist based in Los Angeles. Blue gave birth to twin preemies at 33 weeks and says she recovered well after her C-section.
People who aren’t into guided instructions may appreciate practicing mindfulness with some relaxing music or meditative soundscapes. Music therapy has been proven to help reduce post-operative pain7 and can also help you mentally prepare for a C-section during pregnancy by helping you manage your prenatal stress and anxiety.
Listen to Other Parents Experiences
Not everyone is sold on the powers of meditation for a positive Cesarean birth experience. Sometimes what’s really helpful is knowing how it actually helped someone who’s been there.
When Ivette Montejo was pregnant with her first baby, she only planned and prepared for having a vaginal birth. Instead, she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, which led to a lengthy induction that resulted in a C-section.
“It was highly stressful,” says Montejo. “I knew that if I were to have kids again, I would try to be better prepared.”
Just prior to her son’s first birthday, she became pregnant again. She had already begun a meditation practice due to work stress, which helped her once it was time to deliver her second child.
“With my second planned C-section, I felt much more peaceful,” says Montejo, who adds that this time she felt she had more control over her body. She says her practice allowed her to stay calm and maintain her blood pressure at normal levels.
“I had severe anxiety thinking about what the surgery and recovery process would be like. I was especially emotional about not being able to spend time with my baby right after delivery,” says Tingley. While she had the option to schedule a C-section, she opted against it and labored using meditation for pain management until it was time for surgery.
“During recovery, my heart rate was high and my blood pressure was not regulated so they would not allow me to see my baby,” she says. “I used meditation to keep calm, and shortly after I was released to my room to reunite with my baby and husband.”
Jillian Amodio, a certified yoga and meditation teacher, says she experienced two C-sections, the first of which was unplanned and left her feeling like her body had “failed.”
Armed with her meditation practice, Amodio says she acknowledged her postpartum pain as part of her journey, focusing on her breath and visualization techniques to guide her through it.
“Not only did meditation recenter my focus, it also empowered me to speak up and to not suffer as much internally as I did the first time around,” says Amodi, who is based in Annapolis, Maryland. She credits meditation for allowing her to give herself the time and space to heal. “It encouraged me to show myself grace and compassion.”
Get Your Birthing Partner Involved
Julie Arvan, a postpartum doula and owner of Nesting Days, recommends not only meditating solo, but also getting your birth partner involved, if you have one. It’s important for birth partners to mentally prepare for a C-section, too, so they can support you in the operating room and during recovery.
“Breathing in and out together, holding hands, finding each other’s eyes and locking in are all great additional techniques,” says Arvan. And for those birthing with a romantic partner, Arvan says these techniques also have the added benefit of bringing couples closer together.
Continue to Use Mindfulness Postpartum
It might become difficult to make time for yourself once your new baby is here, but giving yourself emotional support after a C-section is so important. Not only are you dealing with fluctuating hormones, you’re also caring for your body, including a healing incision. This can be difficult territory to manage for anyone.
“I’ve worked with many C-section moms, and find mindful meditation [to be] a valuable tool preparing for the big day, and also a great way of coping with the discomfort following surgery,” says Arvan. “Meditation can really reshape how our bodies respond to stress and act as a buffer as we go through difficult experiences. By relaxing our mind, our bodies create more oxytocin hormones, which can aid in a quicker recovery.”