Looking ahead to your birth is both totally exciting and completely daunting. You know you are going to meet your baby, and that feels like bliss. But the unknown and uncertainties about how your birth story is going to unfold can quickly cloud that bliss with worry. Especially when you consider C-section births.

One-out-of-three women will give birth via C-section, yet despite its commonality, we often have so many questions about what the experience will be like. And that can be scary.

But mama, it doesn’t have to be.

To help you feel a bit more empowered about your upcoming birth—we wanted to share the answers to a few common C-section questions, in case that is where your journey leads you. Do not hesitate to ask many more questions than these. Seek out a birth class that will explain your options, non-judgmentally and informatively. And above all, trust yourself. You have within you the strength to give birth in the way that is best for you and your baby.

What happens during a C-section?

Diana Spalding, CNM, a nurse-midwife and the author of Motherly’s book “The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama” shares what expectant mothers need to know about what happens during a C-section.

Can I breastfeed after a C-section?

Yes. The same hormones that stimulate milk supply after a vaginal birth are still present after a C-section birth, making it entirely possible to breastfeed after a C-section. Spalding shares what else you need to know about positioning baby when breastfeeding to ensure it’s comfortable for you while your incision heals.

What does a C-section scar look like?

The C-section incision is usually made laterally across the lower abdomen, typically below the pubic hairline. For several months after the C-section, the scar may be red or pink, eventually fading to a flat, thin line.

Picture of a C-section scar after surgery, answering the question what happens during a c-section?
Courtesy of Peanut
Picture of a C-section scar several months after surgery, answering the question what happens during a c-section?
Courtesy of Peanut

What is a ‘gentle’ C-section?

How long does a C-section take?

A typical C-section procedure takes about 45 minutes, though the entire process from start to finish could take several hours, in terms of preparation for surgery and stitching up the incision after surgery.

How long does it take to recover after a C-section?

“After you’ve had a C-section, the general recovery takes about 8 weeks,” notes Spalding, in terms of getting back to pre-surgery activity and comfort levels. Postpartum bleeding, known as lochia, usually starts out like a heavy period, then diminishes in volume over the next 6 weeks, too. Spalding shares more about what to look out for when recovering from a C-section.

Can I have a vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC)?

It’s possible. “The good news is that we’ve found about 60% to 80% of women who try to have a VBAC successfully do have VBACs,” notes Spalding. The likelihood of having a vaginal birth after a C-section will depend on your personal history, previous C-section birth experience and an assessment from your birth provider. Spalding stresses that your provider is an expert but you are your own best advocate, so it’s important to do your own research and get several opinions if having a VBAC is important to you.

A version of this story was originally published on Dec. 21, 2020. It has been updated.