So you are going to theatre...

You are heading to surgical theatre to have a caesarean section to deliver your baby. Whether it is a planned c-section or an emergency delivery, you are bound to be scared - after all, you are about to be cut open! Who wouldn't be freaked out?! We thought that you might feel a little better if you knew exactly what to expect once you are there and what it will look like. Here goes.

doctor pushes bed into theatre operating room wearing theatre cap

What it looks like...

If you have watched any medical show there is a very strong possibility that you have seen what the inside of a theatre looks like (and you have been convinced that every patient almost dies before being rescued by the handsome doctor who is secretly dating the pretty assisting doctor - SERIOUSLY?!). The theatre room has 5 doors normally: two in the middle where you will be pushed in on your bed, flanked by two other doors - one leading to the scrubbing basins where the doctors will wash and literally scrub their hands and arms before surgery, and one leading to the utility room where some extra stock is kept in case it is needed during the procedure. The fifth door is on the opposite side of the theatre and leads to the laundry and disposal hallway for easy cleanup after the procedure. Each theatre is different depending on it's main use, but for the sake of simplicity we will broadly generalise here.

In the middle you will see a bed that is marked off with a red square painted on the floor around it. That is where you will go. The red square indicates the sterile area and only the doctors and assistants who have been thoroughly scrubbed and has sterile disposable operating gowns on over their scrubs are allowed in this space. Over the bed there are several bright lights in addition to the normal lights. These are adjustable and will be moved to an optimal position for your surgeon to have the best light to do a fantastic job. These are also the lights that make your photos over exposed with blown out highlights over your baby's face - which is why you need a birth photographer who knows how to deal with it.

Around the bed there will be different screens and monitors. These include suction and oxygen devices, monitors for heart rate and blood pressure etc. The medical staff will bring in trolleys with green wrapped packs, sealed with tape, into the room. These are the instruments that will be used during the operation and they are sterilised after every procedure.

woman lies on surgical table in operating room baby warmer in background monitors drip

What to expect...

When you arrive in the theatre waiting area your file will be checked by the staff to ensure you are there for the correct procedure. Your anaesthetist will go through your medical history with you and explain to you exactly what will happen in the next few minutes. This is also where you will see your Dynamic Birth Photographer wearing purple scrubs and a big smile with a camera. You will be asked to sign a few forms containing consent for the procedure, consent to have the photographer in the room and a model release stating that you agree to have your baby's birth photographed and your contact information given to the photographer to receive your photos. Your husband will be taken to put on scrubs over his clothes. He will be back before you are pushed into theatre. Your surgeon will also come by for a last smile and chat.

woman signs forms in theatre surgical robe blood pressure cuff glasses scrubs blue

Going inside

Your bed will be pushed down the hall and into the theatre allocated to your procedure. Once you are inside the double doors will close and you will be asked to move over to the operating bed in the middle of the room. Don't worry about the opening at the back of your gown showing your bum - nobody takes a second look. Once you are on the operating table you will be given your spinal or epidural. Almost every mom I have come across is nervous about this part. Having a needle in your back sounds terrible! The truth is that you are given a local anaesthetic that will numb your skin and you will probably not feel any pain. Your legs will start feeling heavy and you will be asked to lie down. Next comes the catheter and the cleaning of your stomach. A big disposable sheet is placed over your entire body revealing only the area where the incision will be made. Your husband gets a chair right next to your head so he can hold your hand and talk to you during the whole operation. There is also a screen between you and the doctor so you will not be able to see him making an incision.

Your baby's paediatrician will pop in to the room round about now as well.

man holds woman's hand watch arm heart rate monitor

Your baby is about to be born...

Before an incision is made your doctor will make sure you don't feel any pain by pinching the skin with surgical tweezers. If you feel pain you will be put under general anaesthesia, but it is very rare for this to happen. From the first incision to the birth of your baby will be around 3-5 minutes. Yes, it is very fast! Theatre is very much like any other workplace. People talk and laugh and sometimes even listen to music. Your doctors will very likely tell stories about their holidays and laugh about things their kids have done. It is not the somber, quiet atmosphere that you see in movies - at least not where we work.

doctor lifts baby from womb in theatre surgical robe screen incision

Baby is out...

Depending on the size of the operating room and the amount of babies you are having (with multiples it sometimes gets crowded) your husband might be asked if he wants to see the baby being born. He can then stand up and watch or move around the red square to your feet where your photographer has an unobstructed view to watch as they lift your baby from your uterus. If he is prone to passing out at the sight of blood (Vasovagal syncope) he might want to sit where he is and not stand up. If he passes out, we always promise to get you a picture before helping him up.

Your doctor might show the baby to you quickly before handing it to the midwife who will place your baby in the baby warmer, a baby bed with a heater at the top and equipt with oxygen and suction devices as well as any other medical utilities your paediatrician might need for your baby. They will do some checks and wrap your baby in a blanket before bringing it over to you for a cuddle. Depending on how the birth goes your husband will very likely be allowed to stand next to the paediatrician while they check your baby. It is no longer a sterile area and he may touch the little toes and hands of your precious bundle. Some paediatricians might even hand him the baby to carry to you once they are finished.

woman holds newborn baby in white blanket heart rate monitor

You are a mom now...

A few minutes ago you were imagining what your little one will look like and now you are looking at his tiny little face on your chest. Congratulations! You are a mom now! You are overwhelmed with relief and joy and you might even cry. Your husband probably has shed some tears as well. This is when we normally take a new family photo and send it to your phone immediately so you can notify the rest of your family who are anxiously waiting for the news and a glimpse of the newest family member. Your baby still needs to be weighed and measured and your husband will follow the nurses to the nursery to get this done while you are being stitched up and wheeled to recovery for 30-40 minutes. As soon as you are back in your hospital room in the maternity ward your baby will be brought to you. We pop in soon after that for a few photos and a baby announcement before we head out to edit your photos so you can get sneak peeks of all that transpired. You will be souring on adrenaline and excitement for a few hours after the birth so make sure you eat something as soon as you can and get some rest - you probably did not sleep well the night before.

We hope this blog has helped you to understand theatre a little better and to know what to expect. If you have booked Dynamic Photography as your birth photographers then you will have a tour guide around theatre at all times to tell you what you can expect or who to ask when you feel uncertain about something.

We hope to see you and your precious new baby soon


Lizelle and Charlotte

Dynamic Photography

two birth photographers with cameras wearing purple scrubs blonde brunette