Recovery After a C-section

As we all know a C-section is no joke – it’s major abdominal surgery. And the recovery will take some time and effort! Here’s Dr. Hadley telling you all about it!

The recovery after giving birth by Cesarean delivery is somewhat harder and most definitely longer than after a vaginal delivery. However, the things you’ll feel, the possible pain, strain and discomfort present themselves very differently from one woman to another.

The way you take pain and any other physical discomfort during the recovery depends very much on whether or not you’re dealing with some other postpartum issues (mood swings, irritability, excessive discharge etc.) and to what extent. So when all these influences collide and combine with your natural strength to cope with physical discomfort, and with your new responsibilities – they will greatly influence your path to recovery.

It’s typical to keep the women in the hospital two to four days after Cesarean delivery.

But that doesn’t mean you completely well and done after that. To really and completely recover can take more than a couple of weeks, in fact. So, being discharged from the hospital only means you’ll be going home where you’ll have to take care of yourself AND the new baby. Getting some help during this period, especially if you already have young kids, is suggested.

woman sleeping in hospital bed

During your stay in the hospital you will be getting proper medication for postpartum pain relief. If you’ve given birth with an epidural or spinal anesthesia your anesthesiologist may add morphine to it which will provide great pain relief for up to 24 hours after the surgery. Or, the epidural can be left in for up to 24 hours after the surgery, so you can get all the medication you need through it.

If however you’ve had general anesthesia during your surgery, and you don’t get morphine through spinal/epidural afterwards, you’ll be getting systemic narcotics for postpartum pain relief. There’s also a system called “patient-controlled analgesia” you can use.

This is where the medication is delivered through your IV when you push a button indicating you’re feeling pain or discomfort (of course it’s controlled so you won’t be getting any more than the safe amount).

You May Feel a Bit Groggy

After the total anesthesia, and the narcotics you may feel a bit groggy which is normal. But, what’s most important is that you communicate with the nurses – tell them if you’re in pain, tell them if you’re uncomfortable. It’ll be easier for them to provide you with the best possible treatment if they’re aware how the medication is working.

Breastfeeding shouldn’t pose a problem and you can start straight from the recovery room. It may feel a bit challenging on the count of your sore nipples and the pain from the incision that’s not healing, but, use the fact that you’re surrounded with doctors and nurses! Many hospitals provide a lactation consultant, but if that’s not an option any nurse will be able to give you a helping hand.

mother breastfeeding

They will be checking on you several times a day either way. Checking to see if everything is okay, if the wound is healing properly, if the recovery is going the way it should, and if everything seems to be alright your IV and urinary catheter will be removed within 12 hours of the surgery.

Like all women you’ll have discharge that consists of blood, bacteria and sloughed off tissue from your uterus. This is completely normal and will slowly fade from bright red to pink to white-ish over the course of several weeks.

You should be able to drink fluids, and even eat a light diet (if you feel like it) soon after the surgery (usually 6 to 8 hours). You’ll be encouraged to get out of bed at least a couple of times a day – even the day of your surgery. It’s important to do so even if it feels impossible because moving around will help with your recovery more than you think.

You may feel a bit bloated during the first couple of days. Getting on your feet will also help your digestive system start up again.

Lastly the doctor will remove your staples and you’ll receive all the vaccines that you haven’t had already. After that, you’re ready to be discharged from the hospital, which means you have enough strength to take care of yourself on your own (with regular check-ups of course).

After you’ve left the hospital make sure you’re not on your own – as I’ve said, you’ll need some help, at least for some time.

These are the signs of an infection you need to keep an eye out for:

  • warmth, redness, swelling, or oozing at the incision site
  • fever
  • worsening pain or sudden pain
  • foul smelling vaginal discharge
  • darker or bloody urine
  • pain or a burning sensation while urinating

If you have even one of these signs you need to call your doctor. It might be nothing, it might even be an unrelated health issue, but it’s better to be safe!

You’ll be able to tell how much you can handle so don’t put a strain on yourself. Take it easy and don’t dive into regular life at home straight away. Listen to your body! If you take each day at a time gradually you’ll be doing better and better and you’ll be settled in your new life.

About the author

Dr. Hadley

Dr. Hadley is YouQueen's resident gynecologist with over 25 years of experience as a specialist with her own practice. Feel free to ask her questions in the comments.

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